Live Fire Training - Part 1

Over the last few years we have seen it time and again regarding the injuries and deaths to firefighters on the training ground regarding live burns. They involve individuals from the rookie to the seasoned veteran and the cause of these injuries and...

Even with NFPA 1403 a growing number of departments have diminished or even completely eliminated the use of acquired structures for live fire training. There are many reasons why this is happening but include the areas of liability in firefighter injuries and deaths that have occurred over the past several years. Once you have your structure you need to be able to provide the highest levels of safety along with thorough and appropriate planning as well as making sure that a good incident command system is provided for.

Now that you have your structure and your paperwork's complete you can begin thinking about a live fire exercise and planning for it properly. Remember that you are creating a real dynamic environment that can cause extreme hazards and risks to interior firefighters and firefighting suppression efforts. What should be upper most in your mind is the ability to provide great care in safety and an extremely supervised event. Safety has to be the ultimate priority and consideration. In order to help you stick to that priority you should utilize NFPA 1403 to keep you on track. Remember there is a big difference between fire in acquired structures and training in fires in a burn building. First the acquired structure will give you a limited amount of burns. It will also give you similar fires but they can become quite different depending upon the involvement of the structure. Whereas conducting fires in a burn building specifically designed for repetitive fires allows for many evolutions to be conducted without the probability of extension into its structure.

Some of the important challenges relating to live fire training deals with the experience of officers and firefighters involved in the exercises. It is very important that training officers and the instructors involved in live fire training realize that most experiences of real fire related behavior has increasingly been diminished or the last 20 years. Many of the experienced firefighters and officers have been leaving the fire service over the past few years leaving young officers with little experience making way for the inability to recognize simple fire behavior principles such as flashover and potential building collapse. They also may not have the inability to react quickly enough to avoid additional certain potentially fatal conditions when conducting live fire exercises.

Another important feature of acquired structures for life fire training is the type of structure usually provided for the event. Most of the time it is an older home as well as being a smaller home in comparison to the type of construction that are all around us today. It is very rare that a fire department will be able to acquire larger and newer home types of structures involving increased square footage as well as different types of construction features and fuel loads.

Conducting The Training

Regardless whether the structure is fixed or acquired there are certain requirements during live fire training that should be adhered to. One very important area involves the individuals participating in this type of training. Live fire training with those involved should at least have a firm basic operational skill level in fire suppression in order to participate. They should also have a firm basis of safety skills as they relate to actions and tasks on the fireground in order to prevent creating inherent safety problems to others as well as to themselves.

Those conducting the training should also have a clear and operative understanding regarding an incident management system with an instructor in charge who will be inevitably the operational command of the training exercise. This along with the required number of additional instructors must be insured in order to operate in the dynamics of life fire training.

If you are conducting a multi-company operation meaning that different functions are going on simultaneously such as fire suppression and roof operations you should allow for one instructor for each operation. Another way to look at this is to provide an instructor for the appropriate span of control of 5 to 7 members involved. Another important feature of multi-company operations is also the use of scenarios that involve multiple hose lines. Here it is a good idea to have an instructor overseeing each line involved in the suppression effort during the training event. It is important to note that when conducting scenarios involving more than one hose line at training fires that the appropriate amount of personnel to move a dedicated size line be present when operating on that line.