Like most other workplaces, Elliott said, firefighters drink coffee, which adds to the problem.
“We try to manage that and get people to drink fluids and drink the right kids of fluids,” he said.
Putting it out
Later, back inside the building with Russell, we watched as one of the attack teams dealt with a fire.
A straight stream of water shot from the hose they carried, and broke out a window next to the fire. When they put a stream to the fire, the cooler water disrupted the balance of hot air we could see above, and it felt like the heat dropped through the room.
Water expands 1,800 times in volume when it turns to steam, Elliott said.
That transfer of wetter, cooler air and steam can put out fires in other rooms from where it is sprayed, he said.
“We put out attic fires with steam all the time,” he said. “If you converted 50 gallons of water into steam, you’ve absorbed a tremendous amount of energy. It takes a lot of energy to heat water. That’s why your dad always told you to take short showers.”
KVFR has training props made from metal containers or the hulks of old cars, but buildings provide much more realistic training opportunities.
The pacing is substantially slower and fire activity much more tame than a real fire, Russell said, but it’s still good training.
“This is the closest thing to actually being in a real fire,” he said. “Being able to burn, see the paint drip and stuff, that’s valuable.”
Working on basics
Rachel Carlson, a volunteer for Fire District 1, completed the recruit class, but had to wait until Saturday for a practice fire.
The burn, she said, was a good chance to work on the basics with a safety net.
The training included fire behavior and different spray patterns as they work in a practical setting, not just theoretically, she said.
She saw, “how everything works together, your tools, your breathing apparatus, getting around corners.”
Not everyone at the training was a firefighter. Grace Laux and Julie Berthelote are dispatchers, and they said they were glad to see what’s going on from the other end of the radio, and to put names to faces.
“It gives us a good understanding of what they’re going through,” Berthelote said.
Berthelote, Laux and I only had a few turns inside the home so firefighters could get more training time, but there was a good reason to stick around.
Once the practice fires started, there are only so many times the fires can be lit, put out, and re-lit. When all those chances were exhausted, firefighters burned down the building.
When the smoke started to pick up, neighbors started coming by to see the show.
“We’re not leaving till that sucker’s down,” Laux said.
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