Firefighters with Barrow County Emergency Services and the Winder Fire Department held a joint live fire exercise last week.
The live fire training was part of continuing education requirements instituted by the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council.
“Every year we are required to do live fire training,” said Barrow County Fire and EMS Public Information Officer Lt. Scott Dakin.
The live fire training gives firefighters the opportunity to work on skills such as line handling, forced entries, search and rescue and fire attacks.
“This gives us an opportunity to actually train instead of having to concentrate on putting the fire out,” Dakin said. “In a real fire, I don’t have time to watch my guys. I’ve got to get them in there and I have to do my stuff.”
“This gives me an opportunity to watch them and say this is what you need to do,” he said.
The training was conducted in a house donated by the Barrow County Airport Authority. Due to Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the house was stripped of carpeting, shingles and other hazardous materials prior to the burn.
By the end of the three-day exercise, every firefighter within the two departments had the chance to participate in the live fire scenario.
Firefighters entered the building in groups under supervision by certified instructors. Instructors from across Georgia took part in the training.
Each firefighter wore the typical 60 pounds of gear. To prevent heat exhaustion, the crews were frequently rotated in and out of the building.
While firefighters were able to spend 20 to 40 minutes in the building during the training exercise, the time spent in a real fire situation would be much less.
“Most people are only going to be in there for 25 or 30 minutes total of hard firefighting before you have to rotate out and it is going to take a while to recuperate,” said Dakin.
Thursday’s exercise was the culmination of months of training, according to Dakin.
“We’ve been training on this house for about four months now,” said Dakin. “We’ve been rotating crews through doing different scenarios.”
Barrow County Fire and EMS Training Captain Bryan Bulloch said last week’s exercise provided eight of the 24 hours of continuing education required each year for members of the fire department.
Though the firefighters were assessed in many areas, Bulloch said the emphasis was on teamwork.
“Barrow County is a young department. We have a lot of young guys,” Bulloch said. “Obviously, we don’t get a lot of experience. We have fires, but we don’t have anything this big that we get to go in and train.”
Bulloch said the live fire exercise gave the firefighters the opportunity to work together and learn to perform their jobs safely.
“That benefits not only the firefighters but the citizens they protect as well,” he said.
The exercise is one of numerous training classes the Winder Fire Department and the Barrow County Fire and Emergency Services are conducting together.