West Yorkshire firefighter gets top score in national challenge

A firefighter from West Yorkshire walked away with a top prize when he took part in a national challenge, which focuses on how to stay safe while under pressure.

National BA Challenge

A team from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS) took part in The National Breathing Apparatus Challenge, which saw Michael Gumeniuk receive an award for his quick-thinking actions during one of the real-life scenarios.

The challenge, which takes place at the Fire Service College at Moreton-in-Marsh in Gloucestershire, was jointly founded by WYFRS assistant district commander Dave Cookson. He said: “In 2006 I was working as an instructor and there were a number of high-profile deaths and injuries of firefighters. A fire officer in the West Midlands was also looking into this issue and we worked together to see if we could test firefighters on their thought process, and analyse how they deal with a situation when they are under pressure.

“Firefighters will always want to achieve the right outcome, but in the past this often meant making their own judgement and going against policy. This was putting lives at risk, and we wanted to create a challenge that would show them they can achieve a good result and still stay safe.”

Each team member is tested on their rationale and thought process. This includes the incident commander and the fireground assistant, who is not only the driver of the appliance but is in charge of equipment such as hoses and ladders. There is also the entry control officer, who looks after the breathing apparatus team when they are in the building.

Bradford crew manager Michael Gumeniuk was the entry control officer who, at the end of the action-packed day, was presented with an award. Michael said: “The challenge takes place on a Saturday and you are given a limited amount of information before you arrive at the scene. There is a building on fire and you are told there are people trapped inside – your aim is to get them out as quickly and safely as possible. As entry control officer you look after the breathing apparatus team and need to always be aware of their location in the building. It was an exciting challenge that really tested your thought process, so I was thrilled to receive the control officer top award.”

The first National Breathing Apparatus Challenge took place in 2008 and since then they have seen improvements in the way firefighters manage situations.

ADC Cookson, who is one of the challenge assessors, said: “This year we had 23 teams from across the country taking part and the overall winner was Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service. Each team gets detailed feedback immediately after the incident, and a report goes out to the brigade with learning points.

"In the early years we saw a team take part that were quite dangerous and made decisions without thinking about the consequences. After receiving feedback they returned the following year and showed a huge improvement. If that has led to us stopping those firefighters from being killed, then the challenge has been a huge success.”