It's probably difficult to overstate the value of live-fire training for both recruit firefighters and their more experienced counterparts. Yet as the tragic 2007 incident at the root of this story demonstrated, every fire carries the risk of severe injury and death, regardless of how, why or where it occurs.
As one of my first recruit instructors told a colleague who was having a rough day on the drill field: "The (training) fire doesn't care." This fact has critical implications for students and instructors who participate in live-fire training.
With any training evolution, instructors must strike a balance between realism and safety. If the training environment doesn't effectively simulate "real-world" conditions, then we run the long-term risk of putting ill-prepared firefighters on the street. If the environment is too dangerous, then we risk violating our duty to keep trainees safe from harm.
Finding this balance point can be particularly challenging when live fire is involved. I've worked in jurisdictions that used a variety of fuel arrangements, fuels, and structures to help provide a realistic interior firefighting environment. Honestly, I've had a few near misses in those settings as both an instructor and a student.
With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.
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John V. PignataroThursday, September 05, 2013 1:25:06 PMWhere as I agree with Chief Thiels premise, I do not agree with all of 1403 You will still have Firemen whom recieve burns etc. Some FD's use temperature controlled Class A burn buildings not sure this is a proper way to go since heat is what we are trying to impress upon the young and older firemen. Working with a bale or two of straw is surely not a realistic training evolution! If you must then using 3 pallets and a flake of straw each burn would serve slightly better. Portions of 1403 are just fine such as a properly placed safety line and experienced team ready to go is always a good idea. Using an experienced team leader on each hoseline crew to combat any individuals potenial panic and to explain to young firemen the good, the bad and the ugly is also the way to go. A Safety Officer placed during the evolutions is another, no use of flamable liquids during ignition is another good idea! So there is a balance but it must be as realistic as we can and over all I am not a fan of the NFPA the consensus standard is just a way to provide liability coverage for the AHJ and is usually only used when it benefits them....