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...

One of the biggest and important realizations when conducting live fire training is that you must never use a live victim in the role of a civilian or a downed firefighter in full protective clothing. Many injuries and even a few deaths have occurred during training exercises in what instructors thought provided more realism only to experience the ultimate tragedy.

Any house or structure that has been acquired for live fire training should be thoroughly examined before the lighting of the first flare into order to insure that there are no individuals such as homeless, vagrants or animals in the structure.

Preparing Participants

When companies arrive for training involving live fire a thorough briefing should be provided. During this briefing it is important that all aspects of the training, problems and their solutions are being thoroughly discussed. That all instructions are understood in regards to the expectations and the assignments that need to be covered. This along with a pre-burn look at the interior of the building by allowing all members to walk through it must be done. Even though this type of behavior would never be offered to us as firefighters when responding to a given structure involved in fire. It is extremely important to allow those involved in live fire training to safely see and plan their operations within the structure before it is being attacked by fire. The instructors conducting the training should never conceal the burn room or where they intend to light the fire within the structure. It is of utmost importance that the walk through the structure allows the participants to see this room in order to formulate probable fire behavior and what they may be exposed to or confronted with during fire suppression efforts. It will never be the same building once it is filled with heat and smoke, but the participants in knowing the layout will be able to allow and plan for expected fire behavior in zero visibility which provides for an increase in safety.

The preparation of the participants is extremely important especially in verifying the level of training and experience that each member has. All members participating in a live fire training exercise should be observed to be in good health and physical condition. All participants should have an understanding of the incident command system as well as having an accountability procedure in place. A thorough review of the accountability system being used as well as emergency evacuation signals being used should be clearly understood by all participants. All areas of safety should be addressed including who is the safety officer and who is in charge. Make sure that it is understood that the safety officer has the ultimate authority to stop any activity or evolution at any time.

Another important feature when conducting live fire training is those instructors and those in charge should ensure that all participants are wearing the proper protective clothing. That all SCBA's and their safety alert systems are functioning properly. All instructors as well as all participants should check and review each other in order to make sure that there are no problems with equipment or exposures of skin regarding protective clothing. All SBA's should have the proper amount of air within them.

Ignition Of A Fire

When everyone is ready and a decision is made to light the fire it is important for all instructors to know that the area has been cleared of personnel and that all members are in their proper positions with the understanding of their assignments. Maintaining an instructor in charge who is responsible for the overall operation that is being conducted should be clearly acknowledged by everyone participating in the exercise. There should never be more than one person in charge as well as their never being more than one person in charge of igniting the fire. It is sometimes best to assign one of the instructors as the ignition firefighter who operates under the command of the person in charge. Any decision to ignite the fire will be authorized by the instructor in charge as well as the ignition firefighter being the only one authorized to light the fire itself. There will also never be multiple fires started within the structure. A room and contents fire meaning the fuel load of natural woods and straw will only occur in one room at a time. Multiple rooms should never be lit. No fires should be lit in the areas or paths of egress that would be needed to evacuate the building. It is important for all instructors as well as the person in charge to discuss with all participants a plan for emergency evacuations including evacuation signals or communications.