New Kent fire department does live-fire structure training

NEW KENT – Recently on a Saturday, the all day rain seemed to put a damper on everyone's outside activities with the exception of New Kent Fire-Rescue. The rain actually assisted the training activities in the 6200 block of Pine Fork Road as career and volunteer firefighters from New Kent Fire-Rescue, Quinton Volunteer Fire-EMS, Providence Forge Volunteer Fire-Rescue, West Point Volunteer Fire Department and James City County Fire Department practiced their skills in a donated structure.

This donated structure by Bill Drumheller of Royall Construction Company, is part of New Kent Fire-Rescue's acquired structure training program. This advanced level of fire training involves fighting an actual structure fire as part of a drill allowing firefighters to receive the most realistic training possible. "Live-fire training in an acquired structure is probably the most difficult training atmosphere to control, which is why it must be the most closely supervised and monitored event any department undertakes", states Chief Rick Opett of New Kent Fire-Rescue. 

Chief Opett further comments that "Not all donated structures meet the criteria set forth by the National Fire Protection Association, but when they do, taking advantage of this rare opportunity is extremely valuable to both the rookie firefighter and the seasoned veteran.  Firefighters will gain valuable knowledge and practical experience while operating in a safe environment that closely resembles real life."

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) produced NFPA 1403: Standard on Live Fire Evolutions, which provides direction on how to conduct a live burn safely. Specialized personnel, who are trained and certified to the 1403 level, were brought in from the Sterling Fire Department in Loudoun County, Virginia to assist in the training. Planning for this type of event usually spans between 60-90 days. Some of the items covered in planning to meet this standard include location of exits, the required minimum water supply, delivery of water supply (i.e., tanker delivery and flow requirements), staging/parking for an ambulance, the fuels used during the burn, local permits, asbestos removal and a pre-burn briefing where all aspects of each evolution are discussed.

"All-in-all we had approximately 35 personnel who participated in the training that began with several evolutions of just smoke, followed by evolutions involving live fire, to finally letting the fire go for the purpose of demolition." All personnel returned back to their respective stations safely, without injury, and with new and refreshed knowledge to add to their training competencies.

Several spectators came out despite the weather and witnessed the daylong training and resources required to handle this type of event. Coincidently, New Kent Fire- Rescue remained steadily busy responding to 11 real world emergencies during this training. "This was a day of training success and I am extremely proud of the firefighters, officers, and senior staff who planned and participated in this worthwhile exercise", states Chief Opett.