MILDENHALL, SFK, UNITED KINGDOM
RAF MILDENHALL, England - Firefighters from the 100th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department performed vital training Jan. 10, 2013, using the new compartment fire behavior trainer at RAF Mildenhall, England.
The facility, a converted shipping container, cost approximately $27,000 and has been modified as a fire trainer. It is used to demonstrate how compartment (building) fires develop. This training allows the firefighters to identify conditions that create flashovers and backdrafts so they can safely attack the given situation.
Using wood as fuel rather than propane gas as the aircraft live fire trainer does, this new trainer provides realistic training for structural fires. When fire is confined to one room due to the type of construction of a building, it creates different types of hazards for firefighters.
"We acquired the trainer to allow us to re-create very specific fire conditions in order to provide the most realistic training possible to our firefighters," said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Waldrip, 100th CES Fire Department assistant chief of fire prevention, from Tuscola, Texas.
"This type of training is extremely important because it enables us to physically see, hear and feel actual fire conditions in a controlled environment. By going through the trainer, our firefighters significantly increase their knowledge and experience of fighting a compartment fire," Waldrip said.
He added that ultimately this training helps them recognize different aspects of fire behavior that lead to unsafe conditions.
"Getting a chance to see these conditions first hand during training, as opposed to during an actual emergency, means our efficiency and safety increases as we are able to apply the most appropriate fire suppression techniques and tactics based on the training," the assistant chief of fire prevention said.
Prior to the start of the training scenario, an accelerator was applied to the wood inside the trainer, which was then lit causing a fire to start. As the flames started to build, a flashover or backdraft was created and smoke formed a thermal layer, which started to fill the container.
The firefighters' safety is vital, because inside the metal structure temperatures can reach 300 degrees Celsius (572 degrees Fahrenheit) and above.
Fully kitted up with breathing apparatus and protective clothing, 10 firefighters (six "students" and four instructors) stood inside, at the opposite end to the fire, watching as it quickly developed. The instructors talked them through what was happening, explaining the hazards and how to control the situation.
They then exited the trainer, closed the doors and the container filled with smoke, simulating a burning building. The firefighters then charged the hoses and performed buddy-checks on each other to ensure everyone's respirator and protective equipment properly fit.
Working in pairs, they re-entered the fire trainer closely followed by an instructor, who ensured their safety and that procedures were properly performed.
Being able to use the trainer was a result of mutual aid training emphasizing how on- and off-base firefighters work together, explained Master Sgt. Matthew Luetkemeyer, 100th CES Fire Department assistant chief of fire training, from Warrenton, Mo.
"Norfolk Fire Service assisted in the creation of this program, training me and David Bootman, watch manager," he said. "In the future, we hope to bring (NFS) here so they can see for themselves how we train."
Luetkemeyer said the goal is to perform training twice a month.
"The training went great," said Waldrip. "We were able to get both our younger, less-experienced firefighters, along with our veteran smoke-eaters, some invaluable experience which helps to increase their skill-set in terms of extinguishing compartment fires."
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This work, New trainer provides realistic conditions, hazards for firefighters, by Karen Abeyasekere, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.