GREENFIELD — Smoke was still billowing from the training structure at Greenfield Fire Station 422 when Mayor Guy Titus exited the burn unit and took off the fire mask, helmet and other safety gear he had on.

His eyes were wide when as he gathered around the GFT crews and started talking about the experience of going inside the live burn training unit to get first-hand experience of what it’s really like to be a firefighter.

“It was hotter than the devil in there,” Titus said. “It was so hot, and I’m carrying the hose and someone yells, ‘get to your knees’ because you could see the flames coming through at the top, but I’ve had two surgeries, I couldn’t go to my knees!”

Hancock County Firefighters Local 4787 hosted the Fire Ops 101 class to give Hancock County’s elected and appointed leaders an opportunity to take part in the “Walk a Mile in Our Boots” program this past Saturday.

Luke Eichholtz is the Public Information Officer for the GFT and said 11 county leaders stepped up and accepted the invitation and had the opportunity to take part in four different training sessions. That included putting out a live fire, learning how to give CPR, vehicle extraction training as well as structure rescue training, which included forcible entry and a search.

“I know this will be a humbling experience for everyone because the work we do is a lot harder than people think,” Eichholtz said. “Just the live burn, it’s so much hotter than you can imagine.”

The 11 participants who took part got to move fire hoses, put out a fire, cut cars, work a cardiac arrest on a dummy and put on real fire gear and crawl around on their hands and knees while searching for a fire victim.

“We work so much with public safety. We really need to see just what they do,” Hancock County Council President Jeannine Gray said.

She and fellow council member Keely Butrum had just finished some extraction work and were gearing up to do the live burn training when Gray said, “I’m telling you right now, firefighters do not make enough money.”

Butrum said fire protection funding faces challenges regularly, and understanding more about firefighter needs can help county officials make better decisions.

“Understanding more about the work these guys do can never hurt,” Butrum said. “I went to a live burn a few years ago, so I’m excited to see what it will be like to go inside. This is the part I’m most excited about to know.”

When Greenfield City Council member Amy Kirkpatrick walked out of the live burn unit, she said it was a “cool experience.”

“I wound up having the nozzle, and I put the fire out,” she said. “I’ve been here watching them before and people thought I was crazy to want to get into it, but I wanted to see what they go through and have to endure.”

Kirkpatrick, who comes from a family of first responders noted she would recommend the experience for every county leader who wants to understand more about what firefighters need to do their jobs properly.

“That’s one of the reasons I came out and did this,” Kirkpatrick said. “It puts everything in a whole new perspective.”

Greenfield Fire Territory Chief Jason Horning said it’s great for county leaders to not only see what firefighters do on a regular basis but also be able to actually experience it.

“For us, this is great because they are actually learning about our job so they can have a little better understanding of what we do,” Horning said. “We really appreciate them taking an interest in us and what we do because not every elected official will do that.”

Kurt Davis, GFT firefighter and paramedic, organized the day’s activities and noted it’s a great learning experience for people who really don’t know much about fire protection.

“We’re hoping they’ll remember what we do when, and if we do have to go ask for more manpower or more money to purchase gear, they’ll understand why,” Davis said.

Officials noted all the firefighters who took the time to prepare for and participate in the training for the community leaders did so on their own time. This was the first time in about five years officials have organized this type of exercise and, in the end, the community leaders say it was an eye-opening adventure.

“I’ll tell you this — I will not be resigning my Mayor duties to become a fireman,” Titus said, sweat rolling down his face.

Titus and some of the other county officials had visited the GFT training facility before to see how firefighters train, but had never crossed the line and actually attempted to do some of the training.

“It’s not like it is on TV,” Titus said. “I’ve always respected firefighters, but this does take the respect level up, and they say you don’t really know what someone does until you wear their shoes, or in this case, their boots.”