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RFD hosts fire college trailer for training

Last week the Russellville Fire Department – and any volunteer fire department across the county that chose to do so – participated in an annual training opportunity using the Alabama Fire College’s Mobile Fire Suppression Training trailer.

“It’s the safest form of training we can do while still getting the guys in the heat and fire,” Fire Chief Joe Mansell explained, “(We’re) able to go in and have the heat a normal house fire would generate, but it’s a controlled environment.”

Firefighters on Russellville Fire Department’s C-shift tackle a blaze inside the Fire College’s training unit.
Firefighters on Russellville Fire Department’s C-shift tackle a blaze inside the Fire College’s training unit.

The fire trailer, one of two the Fire College rotates for fire departments’ training purposes, sports facilities that mimic a kitchen, a fireplace, stairs that can simulate entrance into a basement and the ability to move walls to change the layout and force firefighters to continue to adapt to meet the challenge of a structure fire. Operators can ignite a “life-like” fire and manipulate the smoke, the heat intensity and elements like flash.

“Back in the day, we didn’t have stuff like this,” Mansell said. The best training, at that time, was to set an old abandoned house on fire to use as a training fire, but Mansell said that very real experience came with all the danger of an actual structure fire, and firefighters’ lives were put in jeopardy in these “simulations” of old.

Every December, all RFD firefighters and volunteers participate in the training. From start to finish, a simulation lasts no more than five minutes. Two firefighters go in on the nozzle, and two stay at the back door on the safety line.

RFD officers trained as operators for the trailer include Lt. Jonathan Pace, Lt. Jeremy Glenn and Fire College instructor Andy Devaney.

Pace said crucial to the training is having the mindset to treat it just as though it’s a real fire. He said a firefighter can’t let the idea of it being a “simulation” change the way he approaches it – or the consequences could be dire: “If you let it change you here, you’ll let it change you there, and you’ll die.”

 

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