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Information on Live Fire Training, Fires, and Burn Rooms

By Don Manno

WHP is fire service owned and operated. In 1963 when I was a probationary firefighter, we burned diesel fuel inside acquired houses and outside in pits dug in the ground. Even in concrete or cinder block “burn” buildings diesel fuel was used with a little gasoline to help get it going. In truth, I loved those hot, tough fires. And I loved burning acquired houses. And neither survived, all of the concrete burn buildings I trained in are gone, destroyed, demolished.

It is now almost 40 years later and that is all history. Acquired houses are hard to come by across the country, especially with the various regulations about open burning. And, well, you will go to court if you pour diesel fuel in a pit in the ground and burn it today.

The WHP burn room is lined with our Padgenite panel, which our founder developed for interior firefighting training. The panel is attached to something we call “ battens” which are small pieces of the same panel, which are attached to our mounting channels, a metal framework all around the room, which are attached to the walls of the building. This system gives us an air space between the wall of the building and the unexposed side of the panel board.

The panel has been tested and rated for heat insulation and transfer. Panel boards can easily withstand repeated daily exposure to 1200 F, with years of wear and durability. The panel is rated for higher temperature exposure. At daily, repeated high temperatures, say 1800F, the panel still performs it’s insulating function, it just begins to wear out at an accelerated rate. How fast? Experience appears to indicate that if you burn repeatedly at 1800F, daily, cracking of the panel will occur anywhere from the 12th month to the 18th month.

WHP has customers that burn this way daily. They understand the panel system and consider panel replacement as just a maintenance item and budget for it as such. They understand that the panel is the “sacrificial element” in the system and it protects the building.

Other customers do not want temperatures in the 1800F range for various reasons. They use heat monitoring systems on every burn, and maintain temperatures in the 600/1200F range. ACTUAL customer field experience under these conditions has lead to panel life of 14 years.

How to Burn

WHP burn rooms are designed for Class A fires only, or for commercial gas fire simulators. Class A fires means wood, straw, excelsior, hay. Wood means wood pallets. No fire should be directly on the floor. It should be in a burn crib off of the floor. Fires should be located away from the walls to ensure no direct flame inpingement on walls and ceiling. Limit heat at the ceiling to 1000/1200F. That is clearly sufficient heat for fire training purposes, it provides convective and radiant heat transfer, and should be monitored at the ceiling and 5/6 foot level in the room, by temperature transmitting devices to the exterior of the building for safety of students and instructors.

Room Size

The size of the burn room is very important. Experience has shown that small rooms do not react well to the same body of fire that a larger room will sustain with negative results. WHP recommends burn rooms of no less than 10 x 12 feet. A room of this size can has the ability to balance both the heat generated by pallet fires and the rapid cooling effects of interior attack hose streams.

No Flammable or Combustible Liquids/Or Materials that contain them, like furniture

NFPA standards do not allow the burning of flammable or combustible liquids for fire training. Such practices have led to a number of firefighter deaths.

But the reason they can never be used in a WHP burn room has nothing to do with their heat output. The nature of the solvent effect of these liquids BREAKS DOWN the glue that holds the panel material together. It is the same effect as on a composition saw blade on a rescue circular saw, the vapors from the liquids, either in smoke, or just from their presence in the room, will cause the panel to erode, crack and fail. NO Flammable or Combustible Liquids, Period.

Don Manno served as Director of the Marketing Division for WHP Training Towers. He was an instructor at the National Fire Academy for over 16 years and was a nationally recognized speaker on fire training and safety.

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