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Live fire training for firefighters

Working a live fire is the field training aspect of a firefighter’s learning experience

Live fire training is a critical part of the instruction and certification process for firefighters. It teaches them how to safely and effectively fight fires in a controlled setting under supervision.

There are two parts to firefighter training, classroom education and hands-on or field training. Working a live fire is the field training aspect of a firefighter’s learning experience.

Live fire training drills teach trainees how to think clearly and act calmly under the stress of an emergency situation when lives are at stake and every second counts. They must effectively use their training to solve the unique problems of a fire emergency while maintaining their own safety as well as that of their fellow firefighters and any other people involved in the fire scene. This includes operating heavy equipment and tools which can cause serious injury if used improperly. There’s no better way to give students a hands-on lesson in firefighting than through this kind of controlled, supervised exercise.

In order to conduct a live fire training drill, instructors purposely ignite structures which are called ‘burn buildings’. The structures used in these drills are either built specifically to be burned or are acquired by the fire department for that purpose. Sometimes, burn buildings are those that have been condemned and would be torn down if they weren’t used in these drills.

Before the live fire training drill, trainees are outfitted in their turnout gear. This is special firefighting protective clothing that can withstand temperatures up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Turnout gear includes a fireproof insulated coat, a helmet, gloves, boots and pants. Trainees also wear a self-contained breathing apparatus called an SCBA. Turnout gear can weigh as much as fifty pounds, which adds a whole other dimension to student participations in a live fire.

After an instructor briefs them about the live fire drill, the students enter the burn building carrying a fire hose. They’re flanked by an instructor at each end of their line. One crew member operates the hose nozzle, while the others support the hose. They each take a turn operating the nozzle, rotating to the end of the line after their turn. Trainees outside the building feed the hose forward as the firefighters move further into the building.

Once the fire is extinguished, the final part of the live fire drill is to check each trainee for injuries. Trainees receive an evaluation on various aspects of their performance during the exercise.


Firefighting 101 articles are intended to educate a non-fire service audience about the fire service profession. These articles are written by FireRescue1 staff members and FireRescue1 contributors, and cover a wide range of topics from how to join a fire academy to how to pass the exams required to be a firefighter. If there’s a topic you’d like to see covered, or are interested in writing for Firefighting 101, email