Voluntown hosts fire training apparatus for local fire companies

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Region - posted Tue., Sep. 10, 2013
Voluntown Fire Department Rescue Captain Steve Stamper uses a remote thermometer to measure the heat inside the training unit. The temperature topped out at nearly 1,200 degrees. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Voluntown Fire Department Rescue Captain Steve Stamper uses a remote thermometer to measure the heat inside the training unit. The temperature topped out at nearly 1,200 degrees. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

As thick smoke billowed from the structure, firefighters clad in heavy gear, air tanks and face masks filed up the stairs, then descended into the blazing inferno, hauling hoses with them. Once the flames were extinguished, they emerged, red-faced and short of breath, yanking off their breathing masks and gratefully swilling the bottled water offered by their buddies.

While the fire was real, it wasn’t an emergency or a building being consumed by flames. The fire was fully enclosed in a steel cargo container lined with fireproof brick, designed to help firefighters experience the challenges of a “live burn” in a safer, controlled setting.

The Voluntown Fire Department played host to a Live Fire Multi-Training System, lent by the Mystic Fire Department, throughout most of last week. During the unit’s stay in the parking lot behind Voluntown Town Hall, other local companies from Jewett City, Griswold, Lisbon and Oneco paid visits to train their members in fighting a structure fire.

The unit simulates a structure with a pitched roof and allows firefighters to practice ventilation, said Voluntown Fire Chief Jody Grenier. “There’s stairs so we can simulate basement fires. They get to experience the heat, the smoke, the noise. In deteriorating conditions, visibility goes down to nothing,” he said.

John DiSaia, of the Oneco Fire Department, said that the interior temperature of the structure was 700 degrees Fahrenheit when he was inside. “Right now they’re having the fire start on the bottom and go up the sides, so you get the effect of the fire rolling over the house.”

As firefighters entered and exited the unit, smoke curled into the evening air and vivid orange flames could be seen through the open door. The temperature topped out at 1,194 degrees before the training session ended.

Live burns were nothing new to DiSaia, a veteran firefighter, but this was a new experience for his son, Andrew, 16, who is a cadet with the Oneco company. The Plainfield High School junior has been training with the department for six months, but this was his first live burn.

He insisted that he wasn’t scared when he was facing down the flames. “There wasn’t much confusion. It was organized – we knew what we were doing. It was a good experience,” he said.

“You always have one guy in front of you and one guy backing you up,” said Lenny Durand, Jr., another Oneco firefighter.

“This is the only way to get [new firefighters] acclimated to what heat is all about,” said Art Ivanick, of the Voluntown Fire Department.

Grenier said that all the local companies were grateful to the Mystic crew for lending out the training unit, which they received through a 2009 Assistance to Firefighters Grant from the Department of Homeland Security. “It’s nice having this. It’s a regional asset,” he said.


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