Heating up: Local firefighters get training in real-world settings thanks to donors

By Adam Quandt
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A firefighter observes a blaze inside a donated home during a live-burn training exercise. (Photo by Alicia Larson)

Blazing fires growing larger by the second and black smoke bringing visibility to near nothing. These are just a few of the conditions local firefighters face while out in the field.

Thanks to Zehnder Homes and the Burwell family, the Long Lake, Maple Plain, Excelsior, Chanhassen and Maple Lake fire departments were able to prepare and train to handle various scenarios in a real-life setting.

The two donors gave a few structures to the fire departments, so that they could be as prepared as possible for the real thing.

“There are other ways in which structure fires are simulated to allow firefighters to practice fire extinguishment, however, all of those simulated fire situations fall short of the intense heat, thick smoke and massive volume of fire that can be safely created in true wood frame structure,” Long Lake Fire Department’s Chief of Training Cody Farley said in an email.

During the exercises, the Long Lake Fire Department members practiced extinguishing fires, breaching walls to practice self-rescue techniques, pulled mannequins through structures under zero-visibility conditions during search and rescue scenarios and practiced cutting holes in roofs to allow the ventilation of smoke.

“These training exercises are enthusiastically conducted by the LLFD in an effort to provide the very best and most professional level of care and protection for the community it serves,” Farley said.

According to Long Lake Fire Department’s Battalion Chief Shane Gardner, “there is quite a bit of work that goes into it [live burn training].”

Before the training exercises commence, the structures must go through asbestos inspection and other hazardous materials must be removed. The fire departments must also obtain the proper permits and complete a live burn plan per regulations.

“Live burn training inside an acquired structure is much different than training in a simulated facility that uses gas as a flammable liquid to extinguish,” Gardner said. “Live burn training gives our firefighters a better idea of not only how fire behaves inside a structure, but how that structure changes as it is exposed to fire.”

Gardner said that the live burn training is a way for firefighters to train and learn in a safe and controlled fire environment.

“You never know how a firefighter will react inside a burning building until you are in one,” Gardner said.