A firefighter ignites combustibles in a house on Station Rd. as part of Tuesday’s fire practice for crews from Trail and Montrose.

A firefighter ignites combustibles in a house on Station Rd. as part of Tuesday’s fire practice for crews from Trail and Montrose.

Practice makes perfect

Planned burns help firefighters hone skills that save lives and property

Setting fires isn’t usually in the job description for a firefighter, but Tuesday, members of the Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue (KBRFR) did just that.

To practice different techniques, skills and scenarios, firefighters from Trail and Montrose burned down a house on Station Road after weeks of exercises under artificial conditions.

“The house on Station Road had been used for the last three weeks by our paid on-call members for training,” said Terry Martin, KBRFR chief. “For those training scenarios we used artificial smoke to ensure a safe environment for our members. We like to use the structures for training purposes (before burning them down).”

After practicing with a smoke machine, the real fires were set.

Using pallets, bales of hay, lighter fluid and a blow torch, members lit smaller fires in different parts of the two-bedroom, two-story house early on Tuesday morning, extinguishing each fire as efficiently and safely as possible.

Throughout the training sessions, crews completed several different set-ups, such as breaking through walls to get into the next room, or extinguishing a single-room fire from outside the building.

“It is extremely important for all of our members to be properly trained and prepared to respond to each incident,” Martin said of the varying factors in each scenario. “Each incident is different, but prior training promotes confidence and an awareness of the dangers at a fire scene.”

Along with the usual equipment like hoses, helmets and water tankers, the scenarios practiced at the house on Station Road included the use of a heavy-duty fan, blowing directly in the front door of the burning building.

“We use the fan to create a movement of air through the burning structure,” said Martin. “It clears out a lot of smoke and heat which assists the firefighters in making a safer environment, enabling them to track down and extinguish the fire.”

After extinguishing some fires, members reported that the fan reduced the temperature inside a burning room by a few hundred degrees.

Martin says getting the opportunity for practice situations in a house isn’t common for the department, waiting for residents in the community to approach the KBRFR with a structure for members to use.

“Unfortunately, we don’t get many situations where we can train like this,” he said, adding that there is some leg work to do before the burning begins. “We are usually approached by the homeowners who ask if we would be interested in burning the structures down. When a structure is offered, we try to work with the owner to ensure the burning of the building will work for everyone involved.

“For example, we encouraged the homeowner on Station Road to speak with her neighbours to make sure it was also okay for them if we used the structure for training.”

The next building to go up in flames with the help of the KBRFR is 1995 Riverside Avenue. The building is being burned down on April 12. The department will be practicing training scenarios starting at 9 a.m.