BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — On Saturday, 20 participants, including elected officials and local journalists, suited up to understand just a fraction of what it’s like to be a firefighter.

“It’s exciting to see them out here going through those same steps as our guys are doing and learning,” said Eric West, Bloomington Fire Chief.

It’s a part of Bloomington Firefighters Local 49 third Fire Ops 101. The union put an emphasis on “staffing and stations” to showcase why they need the resources they request and utilize.

Those participating spent the day in several simulation exercises including being in a burning building, performing an extrication and hazmat and EMS procedures.

“For them to take time out of their schedule to see what we do and get a better understanding, that way when we go to talk to them to about our other issues they can really take what they’ve experienced here today and apply that when we actually sit in the room to discuss why we need more manpower or why we need stations in a certain location for our community,” President Eric Hall.

Participants included several Bloomington council members, State Representative Sharon Chung and State Senator Sally Turner. In a presentation, firefighters said when officials make decisions, they should consider public safety.

“They brought up in their presentation, we just recently approved 800 different units further on our west side over by Rivian. And I was fully in support of it because we need housing,” said Bloomington Councilman Cody Hendricks. “I probably should have thought about this perspective of ‘oh wait we’re also going to have to get fire services out there.'”

And while the appreciation for firefighters grew even more, the firefighters, who are simultaneously first on scene and behind the scenes, appreciated being seen.

“It shows they want to learn, they want to know what our guys are doing and how can they help us. Is there funding they can provide us to get more equipment, better equipment,” said West. “It’s not just firefighting anymore. We have so many more things that we get called to do and they education these guys have to have.”

The local aims to have Fire Ops 101 every few years as new officials take office.