1. #1
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    Jul 2003

    Default Burn Building on a Budget?

    Has anybody ever built a burn building on a limited budget? I am looking for plans, advice, and techniques that will save on money.

    Labor would be volunteer.

    Likely will be purly concrete construction, with a bit of metal work.

    We have an abundance of oil field industry materials to draw from. Heavy gauge pipe, sucker rod (inch thick rods used in wells), etc...

    We are a volunteer department that would like to have live burn training available in our area (nearest training facility is 70 miles away).

    If anybody has any plans, pictures, or advice, please let me know.

    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

    -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

    -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.

  2. #2
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    Western NC


    I have been toying with this idea myself, although I will be the first to admit I have not researched either NFPA or OSHA regs on such. I considered posting my idea here to get input and see what everyone knew of the regs and how feasable it may be, so this is as good a time as any.

    My idea centers upon the use of ocean shipping containers, the 20 and 40 foot models. We have several welders on the department, and some talented fabricators to work on this.

    Basicly, I would like to take 2 40 foot containers, and join them with a 20 foot to make an H. Regular size doorways would be cut where they join, leaving the structural integity ok. Vents would be added at the top, as well as a provision on one or two for a 4x8 section of plywood to serve as a roof for ventilation exercises. Later down the road a 20 foot model could be added on top of one of the 40's and metal stairs added to connect them. These containers are regularly stacked 4-6 high loaded, so one empty with some reenforcemnet would be fine. A window for RIT excercise could be cut out and formed in a few of the containers, and covered with plywood when not in use or for ventilation/forcible entry training.

    The doors can be left as, and more can be added on the sides. You would need to make some provision for water drainage but slits on the side should be fine, and sliding vents could be added along the tops to regulate tempurature. these containers are extremly strong, deigned to holds tons of goods and be stacked 4-6 high when loaded

    I figure wuth us doing the labor ourselves, buying the cheapest containers (too worn for shipping but still fine for us) we could do the whole basic deal for about $10,000-$12,000.

    Waht do you think guys, is this feasable?
    Last edited by radioguy; 09-16-2003 at 01:09 PM.

  3. #3
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    Pt. Beach, NJ


    Personally, I would do lots and lots of research before I built a building that I will put FF's in and burn. Thoughts of the amount of safety devices needed alone are running through my head. Search for threads on these forums involving Lairdsville. That was a town that did a burn drill without much (if any) of an idea on what they were doing. Hopefully soon, the guy in charge will be spending more time in jail. Can they be built? Sure, but I would suggest calling some companies that sell/build such buildings and get advice from them. Talk to the people who run the one 70 miles away and contact who built theirs. It makes sense to do it, but don't skimp, do it right.

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    Stop. Before taking another step, invest in a copy of NFPA 1403 and follow it to the T.

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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    Stop. Before taking another step, invest in a copy of NFPA 1403 and follow it to the T.
    Just found 1403 available for free download here


    This whole container idea has been a kind of back of the mind daydream of mine for a few months, now time to print this and see if it is feasable.

  6. #6
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    Burn building on a budget? I hope it is a large budget. There is no way to build a safe, compliant, burn building that will last without a significant amount of cash unless you can get a whole bunch of donated cash and or material.
    "We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them in New York City."


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    Now looking over NFPA 1403, I am somewhat suprised at the lack of standards for burn building construction laid down in the standard. There are plenty of refrences to the burn activities and such, but very little on the actual construction. The strictest thing called for in an annual inspection by an engineer familiar with burn building, removal of thermal barriers to inspect for damage beneath (none in a steel building) and core samples of concrete walls.

    here is the standard for non-gas fired training center buildings.

    Chapter 6 Non–Gas-Fired Training Center Buildings
    6.1 Student Prerequisites.
    6.1.1* Prior to being permitted to participate in live fire training
    evolutions, the student shall have received training to
    meet the job performance requirements for Fire Fighter I in
    NFPA 1001, Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications,
    related to the following subjects:
    (1) Safety
    (2) Fire behavior
    (3) Portable extinguishers
    (4) Personal protective equipment
    (5) Ladders
    (6) Fire hose, appliances, and streams
    (7) Overhaul
    (8) Water supply
    (9) Ventilation
    (10) Forcible entry
    6.1.2* Students participating in a live fire training evolution
    who have received the required minimum basic training from
    other than the authority having jurisdiction shall not be permitted
    to participate in any live fire training evolution without
    presenting prior written evidence of having successfully completed
    the prescribed minimum training to the levels specified
    in 6.1.1.
    6.2 Structures and Facilities.
    6.2.1* Strict safety practices shall be applied to all structures
    selected for live fire training evolutions.
    6.2.2* Training center burn buildings shall be inspected visually
    for damage prior to live fire training evolutions. Damage shall be documented.* The structural integrity of the building shall be evaluated
    and documented annually by a licensed professional engineer
    with burn building experience and expertise.* Part of the burn building evaluation shall include,
    once every five years, the removal and reinstallation of a representative
    area of thermal linings (if any) to inspect the hidden
    conditions behind the linings. The engineer shall core solid structural concrete slabs
    and walls that have been exposed to temperatures in excess of
    149°C (300°F) to check for hidden delaminations and to test
    compressive strength once every 10 years for conventional
    (Portland) concrete and every three years for refractory (calcium
    aluminate) concrete. Where the burn building damage is severe enough to
    affect the safety of the students, training shall not be permitted.
    6.2.3 All doors, windows and window shutters, roof scuttles
    and automatic ventilators, mechanical equipment, lighting,
    manual or automatic sprinklers, and standpipes necessary for
    the live fire training evolution shall be checked and operated
    prior to any live fire training evolution to ensure they operate
    6.2.4* All safety devices, such as thermometers, oxygen and
    toxic and combustible gas monitors, evacuation alarms, and
    emergency shutdown switches, shall be checked prior to any
    live fire training evolutions to ensure they operate correctly.
    6.2.5 Training center burn buildings shall be left in a safe
    condition upon completion of live fire training evolutions.
    6.2.6 Debris hindering the access or egress of fire fighters
    shall be removed prior to the beginning of the next training
    6.2.7 In preparation for live fire training, an inspection of the
    structure shall be made to determine that the floors, walls,
    stairs, and other structural components are capable of withstanding
    the weight of contents, participants, and accumulated
    6.2.8 Property adjacent to the training site that could be affected
    by the smoke from the live fire training evolution, such
    as railroads, airports or heliports, and nursing homes, hospitals,
    or other similar facilities, shall be identified.
    6.2.9 The persons in charge of the properties described in
    6.2.8 shall be informed of the date and time of the evolution.
    6.2.10* Streets or highways in the vicinity of the training site
    shall be surveyed for potential effects from live fire training
    evolutions, and safeguards shall be taken to eliminate any possible
    hazard to motorists.
    6.2.11 Pedestrian traffic in the vicinity of the training site shall
    be kept clear of the operations area of the live burn by the use
    of fire lines.
    6.2.12 Awareness of weather conditions, wind velocity, and
    wind direction shall be maintained, including a final check for
    possible changes in weather conditions immediately before
    actual ignition.
    6.2.13 The water supply for any individual live fire training
    evolution shall be assessed based on the extent of the evolutions
    to be performed. Consideration shall be given to the control and extinguishment
    of the fire and the provision of necessary backup
    lines to protect personnel. The minimum water supply and delivery for live fire
    training evolutions shall meet the criteria identified in
    NFPA 1142, Standard on Water Supplies for Suburban and Rural
    Fire Fighting. A minimum reserve of additional water in the
    amount of 50 percent of the fire flow demand determined in
    accordance with shall be available to handle exposure
    protection or unforeseen situations.* Separate sources shall be utilized for the supply of
    attack lines and backup lines in order to preclude the loss of
    both water supply sources at the same time.
    Exception: A single source shall be sufficient at a training center facility
    where the water system has been engineered to provide adequate
    volume for the evolutions conducted and a backup power source or
    backup pumps, or both, are in place to ensure an uninterrupted supply
    in the event of a power failure or malfunction.
    6.2.14 Areas for the staging, operating, and parking of fire
    apparatus that are used in the live fire training evolution shall
    be designated. An area for parking fire apparatus and vehicles that
    are not a part of the evolution shall be designated so as not to
    interfere with fireground operations. Consideration shall be given to locating this area in
    order to facilitate prompt response of apparatus in the event
    of an emergency. Where required or necessary, parking areas for police
    vehicles or for the press shall be designated. A parking area for an ambulance or an emergency
    medical services vehicle shall be designated. Consideration shall be given to locating this area to
    facilitate prompt response in the event of a personal injury to
    participants in the evolution. Consideration shall be given to the designation and
    layout of ingress/egress routes in order to ensure their availability
    in the event of an emergency.
    6.2.15 Prior to conducting actual live fire training evolutions,
    a preburn briefing session shall be conducted for all participants. All facets of each evolution to be conducted shall be
    discussed in the preburn briefing, and assignments shall be
    made for all crews participating in the training session. The location of simulated victims shall not be required
    to be disclosed, provided that the possibility of victims
    is discussed during the preburn briefing. A preburn plan shall be prepared and shall be utilized
    during the preburn briefing sessions. All features of the training areas and structure shall
    be indicated on the preburn plan.
    6.2.16 Prior to conducting any live fire training, all participants
    shall be required to conduct a walk-through of the structure
    in order to have a knowledge of and familiarity with the
    layout of the building and to facilitate any necessary evacuation
    of the building.
    6.2.17 All spectators shall be restricted to an area outside the
    operations area perimeter established by the safety officer. Control measures such as ropes, signs, and fire line
    markings shall be posted to indicate the perimeter of the operations
    area. Visitors who are allowed within the operations area
    perimeter to observe operations shall be escorted at all times. Visitors who are allowed within the operations area
    perimeter shall be equipped with and shall wear complete
    protective clothing according to manufacturer’s instructions
    and in accordance with through
    6.2.18 All possible sources of ignition, other than those that
    are under the direct supervision of the person responsible for
    the start of the training fire, shall be removed from the operations
    6.3 Fuel Materials.
    6.3.1 The fuels that are utilized in live fire training evolutions
    shall have known burning characteristics that are as controllable
    as possible.
    6.3.2 Unidentified materials, such as debris found in or
    around the structure that could burn in unanticipated ways,
    react violently, or create environmental or health hazards,
    shall not be permitted to be used.
    6.3.3 Fuel materials shall be used only in the amounts necessary
    to create the desired fire size.
    6.3.4* Pressure-treated wood, rubber, and plastic, and straw or
    hay treated with pesticides or harmful chemicals shall not be
    permitted to be used.
    6.3.5 The fuel load shall be limited to avoid conditions that
    could cause an uncontrolled flashover or backdraft.
    6.3.6* The use of flammable or combustible liquids, as defined
    in NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code, shall
    not be permitted to be used in live fire training evolutions in
    Exception: Limited quantities of combustible liquid with a flash point
    above 38°C (100°F) shall be permitted to be used in a training center
    burn building that has been specifically engineered to accommodate
    this fuel.
    6.3.7* The instructor-in-charge shall assess the selected fire
    room environment for factors that can affect the growth, development,
    and spread of the fire.
    6.3.8* The instructor-in-charge shall document fuel loading
    including all of the following:
    (1) Furnishings
    (2) Wall and floor coverings and ceiling materials
    (3) Type of construction of the structure, including type of
    roof and combustible void spaces
    (4) Dimensions of room
    6.3.9* The training exercise shall be stopped immediately
    when the instructor-in-charge determines through ongoing
    assessment that the combustible nature of the environment
    represents a potential hazard.
    6.3.10 The exercise shall continue only when the actions have
    been taken to reduce the hazard.
    6.4 Safety.
    6.4.1 A safety officer shall be appointed for all live fire training
    6.4.2* The safety officer shall have the authority, regardless of
    rank, to intervene and control any aspect of the operations
    when, in his or her judgment, a potential or actual danger,
    accident, or unsafe condition exists.
    6.4.3 The responsibilities of the safety officer shall include,
    but shall not be limited to, the following:
    (1) Prevention of unsafe acts
    (2) Elimination of unsafe conditions
    6.4.4 The safety officer shall provide for the safety of all persons
    on the scene including students, instructors, visitors, and
    6.4.5 The safety officer shall not be assigned other duties that
    interfere with safety responsibilities.
    6.4.6 The safety officer shall be knowledgeable in the operation
    and location of safety features available within the burn
    building, such as emergency shutoff switches, gas shutoff
    valves, and evacuation alarms.
    6.4.7* The instructor-in-charge of the live fire training evolutions
    shall determine, prior to each specific evolution, the
    number of training attack lines and backup lines that are
    necessary. Backup lines shall be provided to ensure protection
    for personnel on training attack lines. Each hoseline shall be capable of delivering a minimum
    of 360 L/min (95 gpm). The instructor-in-charge shall assign the following
    (1) One instructor to each functional crew, which shall not
    exceed five students
    (2) One instructor to each backup line
    (3) Additional personnel to backup lines to provide mobility
    (4) One additional instructor for each additional functional
    6.4.8* Additional safety personnel, as deemed necessary by
    the safety officer, shall be located strategically within the structure
    to react to any unplanned or threatening situation or
    6.4.9 A method of fireground communications shall be established
    to enable coordination among the incident commander,
    the interior and exterior sectors, the safety officer,
    and external requests for assistance.
    6.4.10* A building evacuation plan shall be established, including
    an evacuation signal to be demonstrated to all participants
    in an interior live fire training evolution.
    6.4.11 Emergency medical services shall be available on site to
    handle injuries.
    6.4.12 Written reports shall be filled out and submitted on all
    injuries and on all medical aid rendered.
    6.4.13 A search of the structure shall be conducted to ensure
    that no unauthorized persons, animals, or objects are in the
    building immediately prior to ignition.
    6.4.14 No person(s) shall play the role of a victim inside the
    6.4.15 Fires shall not be located in any designated exit paths.
    6.4.16 The training session shall be curtailed, postponed, or
    canceled, as necessary, to reduce the risk of injury or illness
    caused by extreme weather conditions.
    6.4.17 Each participant shall be equipped with full protective
    clothing and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). All participants shall be inspected by the safety officer
    prior to entry into a live fire training evolution to ensure
    that the protective clothing and SCBA are being worn according
    to manufacturer’s instruction and are in serviceable condition. Protective coats, trousers, hoods, footwear, helmets,
    and gloves shall have been manufactured to meet the requirements
    of NFPA 1971, Standard on Protective Ensemble for Structural
    Fire Fighting. Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) shall
    have been manufactured to meet the requirements of
    NFPA1981, Standard on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus
    for the Fire Service.* Where station or work uniforms are worn by any
    participant, the station or work uniform shall have been
    manufactured to meet the requirements of NFPA 1975, Standard
    on Station/Work Uniforms for Fire and Emergency Services. Personal alarm devices shall have been manufactured
    to meet the requirements of NFPA 1982, Standard on
    Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS). All students, instructors, safety personnel, and other
    personnel shall wear all protective clothing and equipment
    specified in this chapter according to manufacturer’s instructions
    whenever they are involved in any evolution or fire suppression
    operation during the live fire training evolution.* All students, instructors, safety personnel, and other
    personnel participating in any evolution or operation of fire
    suppression during the live fire training evolution shall
    breathe from an SCBA air supply whenever operating under
    one or more of the following conditions:
    (1) In an atmosphere that is oxygen deficient or contaminated
    by products of combustion, or both
    (2) In an atmosphere that is suspected of being oxygen deficient
    or contaminated by products of combustion, or
    (3) In any atmosphere that can become oxygen deficient or
    contaminated, or both
    (4) Below ground level
    6.4.18 One person who is not a student shall be designated as
    the “ignition officer” to control the materials being burned. The ignition officer shall wear full protective clothing,
    including self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), as
    required in through, when performing this
    control function. A charged hoseline shall accompany the ignition officer
    when he or she is igniting any fire.* The decision to ignite the training fire shall be
    made by the instructor-in-charge in coordination with the
    safety officer. The fire shall be ignited by the ignition officer in
    the presence of and under the direct supervision of the
    safety officer.
    6.5 Instructors.
    6.5.1 All instructors shall be qualified to deliver fire fighter
    training according to the authority having jurisdiction.
    6.5.2* The participating student-to-instructor ratio shall not
    be greater than 5 to 1.
    6.5.3 Additional instructors shall be designated when factors
    such as extreme temperatures or large groups are present,
    and classes of long duration are planned.
    6.5.4 The instructor-in-charge shall be responsible for full
    compliance with this standard.
    6.5.5 Prior to the ignition of any fire, instructors shall ensure
    that all protective clothing and equipment specified in this chapter
    are being worn according to manufacturer’s instructions.
    6.5.6 Instructors shall take a head count when entering and
    exiting the building during an actual attack evolution conducted
    in accordance with this standard.
    6.5.7 Instructors shall monitor and supervise all assigned students
    closely during the live fire training evolution.
    6.5.8 The instructor-in-charge shall consider the circumstances
    of each training session and make provisions for the
    rest and rehabilitation of members operating at the scene,
    including medical evaluation and treatment, food and fluid
    replenishment, and relief from climate conditions, in accordance
    with the circumstances of the training session. (See
    Annex D.)
    6.5.9 Where concurrent, multiple, live fire training evolutions
    are being conducted in a specifically designed burn
    building, the identity of the instructor-in-charge shall be clear
    to all participants.
    6.5.10 It shall be the instructor-in-charge’s responsibility to
    coordinate overall burn building fireground activities to ensure
    proper levels of safety.

  8. #8
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    Jan 1999


    Fire tactics

    Go there and read.....then read some more. Talk with Batt 18 ( the forums) Paul grimwood in real life. He probably has as much time in containers and most of us do breathing.

    There are plans out there for containers as flashover simulators, as fire attack structures, plus also backdraft simulators (you can't go inside that one!)

    Bottom line is, research, research, research. Do I think there is value in your ideas...yes. But as has been said, make sure you follw the standards and accepted practices to the letter.

  9. #9
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    Flanders, NJ


    Also, trained instructors and solid procedures are every bit as important as construction.

  10. #10
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    Jun 2003
    Phoenix Arizona

    Thumbs up Burn Suilding Alternatives

    Check out Fire Tactics
    Last edited by jimibinaz; 09-18-2003 at 08:19 PM.

  11. #11
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    Phoenix Arizona

    Thumbs up Mobile Burn Units

    stay safe
    Last edited by jimibinaz; 09-18-2003 at 08:06 PM.

  12. #12

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    May 2002
    Starkville, MS


    Be careful of your construction materials if you are going to burn class A fuels. I have heard of brick burn facilities that started out burning pallets and such, and then switched to LP gas because of the expense of replacing deteriorating brick. The bricks in the gas fueled facilities last longer because the temperature does not get as hot (because of the fuel and/or automated controls).

    I have similar ideas for a local training facility - we should touch base through email. You definitely want to check out the wealth of info on Paul Grimwood's site, firetactics.com.

  13. #13
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    Phoenix Arizona

    Thumbs up

    I think you can get a 40 foot unit.

    Last edited by jimibinaz; 09-18-2003 at 08:05 PM.

  14. #14
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    Western NC


    The more I investigate this, the more it seems feasable. The biggest problem for me at least is finding a suitable location, one that has enough flat area for parking and training (we are in the mountains), is available for use, and is far enough from homes and business locatiosn that we will not bother them with smoke.

    We have soem very talented welders, plumbers, and heavy equipment owenr/operaters on our deprtment, so we will be able to do a lot of the work ourselves.

    Another aspect I am going to have to do a great deal of research into is water runoff. I am sure there are a large number of state and federal regulations regarding this, I know we are exempted on real fire scenes but I doubt a training facility will get the same exemptions. the required water drainage system my cost more than anything else......

    We talked about the idea of this the other night, and we think it could be a winning idea. We have a severe lack of decent training facilities in the area, and many departments would be able to take advantage of this facility. I would like to see it made available to everyone, for those departments that can afford to pay on a cost per man hour basis, and for thsoe that are on a tighter budget instead of paying a trade for labor assisting with upkeep or helping provide us with materials for training such as old vehicles, pallets, etc. that way the facility would be available for all and it would help us offset the cost and time needed to keep it up.

  15. #15
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    Water runoff will be a major obstacle...most new training facilities I have scene have water treatment plants and restore the water to a certain standard....Check you state and fed pollution control.

  16. #16
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    would it be possible to get grants at either the state, federal, local or corporate level to help cover the costs? i don't know if it will work, but it's an idea
    If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!


  17. #17
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    I got slated earlier today for 'plugging' our new book. I can tell ya, I am just passing on info here. We have written a book with design plans also on CD for those interested. There are a whole range of container based designs for single and multi-compartments; L Blocks; H Blocks; U blocks and multi levels etc. You can get these here in the book 3D Firefighting But George W is right! The quality of the instructors, and training, are even mnore important than your construction.

    Be safe.........

  18. #18

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    May 2002
    Starkville, MS


    That is great news that you are including sample plans in your book. It will go a long way toward legitimizing designs for those who want to build it themselves.

    I agree about with you on the quality of instruction being highly dependent on the quality of the instructor when it comes to this type of training. In your upcoming book, do you set forth any guidelines or minimum standards for a qualified instructor?

  19. #19
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    Absolutely yes! We try to cover every angle on quality, standards and qualification of instructors. This text and associated CD is based upon every question that has ever come through my mail box over the past five years concerning CFBT live fire training and the 3D techniques. I think the answers are here in one text. How to design and construct CFBT facilities; how to teach in them; how to learn in them; and how to put the 3D techniques into practise for real.

  20. #20
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    I was gone a few days and lost track of this thread.

    I am very excited that Mr Grimwood has visited this thread. I appreciate your input very much.

    Put me down as interested in your book, where can I order it?

    I have only recently discovered Tactical FireFighting. I have come across some of your work before, and I seem to recall seeing you on a TV program of some sort, IIRC it involved a test burn in a room with an observation window. (sorry if I am recalling another person).

    I have a few questions concering safty features.

    Do you (or anybody else) use any sort of dry sprinkler system? I was envisioning a robust/fire hardened sprinkler sytem with sprinkler heads made from thick steel. A Charged line could be hooked up to the system when live burning training activities are on going. If there was some sort of difficulty or safety concern, the sprinkler system is only a valve away.

    That was one safety mechanisim that seemed easy enough to implement.

    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

    -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

    -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.

  21. #21
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    SamsonFCDES - It was a colleague of mine you may have seen on the TV - details are in THIS THREAD HERE

    I would not imagine a sprinkler system of any sort inside these particular training facilities. There are many safety features that include multiple exits; safety hose-lines; controlled burns and maximum numbers of firefighters working in proximity to the fire. I feel that sprinklers could possibly cause more problems than the fire itself in such systems but I appreciate your concerns for safety.

    With properly trained instructors and attentive students the worst injuries, over thousand of live training evolutions, would be a few small minor burns and a twisted ankle or two.

    You can register for the book HERE

    Stay safe.........

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