Lionel Crowther is an instructor with the International Association of Firefighters.
Through a four-day "Fire Grounds Survival Program," Lionel is teaching firefighters skills that will help them in a "worst case scenario."
He is familiar with these types of situations. Lionel was trapped in a burning home with other members of his department in Canada nine years ago.
"We had to fight for our lives to try to get out and unfortunately lost our two captains. We felt helpless, like we didn't have any options. This course gives you those options and pre-plans failure before you get in those situations."
The West Palm Beach Fire Rescue firefighters are the first in the state to receive this type of training. They're able to do so through a grant from FEMA.
Lieutenant Thomas Wesolek is one of the firefighters who participated in the program.
"You don't think about your own demise. We don't want to think that we could be in trouble. We don't want to face the reality that we could be the ones that need to be saved," he said.
Thomas has been with the fire department for ten years.
He said firefighters in West Palm Beach encounter a common problem when responding to fires. Thomas said they find a lot of homes have more than one family living inside.
"In the city of West Palm Beach, we have a lot of occupancies that bring additional hazards to firefighters compared to what you'd normally expect to find. That puts more beds in a bedroom than you would normally expect. Puts more people in a room than you would normally expect," he said.
It's not easy responding to those situations, he said, because there's typically low visibility due to smoke.
"The conditions that we go into, and our desire to make sure we search a building completely so we find any possible sign of life that can be saved causes us to get ourselves in situations that can be dangerous. If we get caught up in wires, if we get disoriented, if we need to punch through a wall to get from one room to another room to make an escape, these are the types of skills that we're learning and practicing," Thomas said.
The department also received new air tanks with the grant money. The tanks are more compact than the ones previously used by firefighters.
"If we get caught or entangled, or get lost or disoriented, we're going to run out of air. If we run out of air, we're going to die," Thomas said, which is why he stressed how important it was to complete the training.
He added, "You don't think about your own demise. We don't want to think that we could be in trouble. We don't want to face the reality that we could be the ones that need to be saved."