Firefighters face the heat in live-fire training

Flames crackle when a fire technician feeds wood pallets to a contained blaze, as firefighters wait to brave the hot atmosphere.

Flames crackle when a fire technician feeds wood pallets to a contained blaze, as firefighters wait to brave the hot atmosphere.

Suited up with an extra 75 pounds of gear, Greater Trail firefighters taking part in live fire training enter a shipping container to douse the mock disaster.

Smoke comes billowing out and members emerge exhausted from the hands-on fire training hosted on Teck property for the first time.

“It’s as real as you can get,” said Trail firefighter Dan Derby, referring to the six-day live fire training session at Teck’s landfill for Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue and Teck Fire Rescue.

Beyond the structure fire, 32 members took turns tackling a car and dumpster fire in a two-day training session last week put on by the Justice Institute of B.C.

“You don’t get that same experience if you were just going into a smoke-filled room to try and simulate a fire environment,” said Derby. “For a large part, this is a big fire place the way it’s set up inside.”

The firefighters enter a hatch door on top of the large container and make their way down into the “basement.” Their personal alert safety system sounds as they stand still to access a door that leads them to the source.

“It’s like hitting a wall,” Derby said of the heat they’re up against. “You come to the door and see the fire roll over top.”

Hosting the “invaluable training” close to home is more than just convenient for the departments that fork over the money.

While the numbers are still being tallied at this time, Derby said it costs about half of the $2,000 per person it would normally amount to send a member out of town to complete the training.

“Doing this up here in our area, these are the people that are going to work together in the event of an emergency,” added Kim McLean of Teck Fire Rescue. “So working together in these six days is way more significant than sending two guys away.”

Regional fire and Teck are now talking about hosting future courses close to home.

“We’ve initiated talks with Kim to maybe look at having a permanent site,” said Terry Martin, regional fire chief. “Where and when and how – we’re not sure, we’re just in the preliminary stages.”

The Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue is made up of about 14 career staff and 120 paid on-call firefighters, while Teck Fire Rescue employs 20 members.