It’s a dangerous job. Firefighters need every advantage they can get when they respond to a call. “Unlike the movies, your ability not to panic when you’re blacked out in a high heat environment is very important to your survival,” says Greg Swan, an Oak Bay firefighter. At the Saanich Fire Station No.2, self-rescuing skills are being taught. It’s called Fire Ground Survival, a travelling program that’s made its way across the province. Today, nearly 30 firefighters from around the province are on-hand. “You get banged and bruised a little bit but it’s all good,” says Swan. “You gotta know your limits so you can get through these situations.” Their life saving skills aren’t just for the faint of heart.These exercises are made from real life situations where others have lost their lives. “In 2007, we unfortunately experience a double line of duty death in Winnipeg,” says Lionel Crowther, lead instructor for the International Association of Firefighters. “I was burn injured and we lost two of our captains that day.” Firefighters use ‘black-out’ masks, used to block their vision. Crews then practice navigating through a dark room to prepare for rescue missions. These exercises can be used to help crews face any situation whether they’re lost, disoriented, injured, trapped, or low on air. “If you’re only doing this life-saving drill once a year you’re planning for failure,” says Crowther. “The more routines and plans you create, the better success you will have.” When they complete the course, these trainees will be certified to take their skills and pass it onto their colleagues at their fire stations. Until then, they’ll keep practicing the skills that not only save the lives of those in need, but sometimes even the rescuers themselves.