Being a fireman isn’t as simple as just showing up, strapping on some gear and spraying water on the flames. In fact, it’s a very dangerous job that requires hours of training that prepares firefighters for those situations.
More than 10 fire departments from around Sampson and other counties joined together Saturday morning to take part in a controlled burn on the corner of Clinton and Bullard streets in downtown Roseboro. The all day experience provided valuable training for more than 50 people, including officials from the Emergency Management Services and support services.
According to Lee Coleman, chief with the Roseboro Fire Department, a controlled burn, or live fire exercise, is when a fire is set in a controlled environment, but is made to be as real as possible to introduce firefighters to what real fire conditions would be like.
“Safety is the number one concern,” Coleman said. “That is why there are so many regulations that have to be met first, before you have one (a controlled burn).”
With most department in the county being in a rural environment and depending nearly 100 percent on volunteers, Coleman said the controlled burn training my be the only live fire someone sees before they actually go out on a call and are faced with not only putting out the flames, but saving someone’s life.
Controlled burn, according to Coleman, are only required for firefighter certification. Each firefighter has to have experienced one controlled burn, which can be done through a simulated fire or an abandoned house.
“Anytime you have a live fire, it is dangerous,”Coleman added. “Firefighters are killed, not because of a lack of training in most cases, but because the job is so dangerous. No firefighter ever wants to have to go into a burning house, but it’s what we do, and it’s to save lives and property”
A controlled burn is meant to simulate what a real fire is like, and during the experience, pallets and wheat straw are set up in a room and set on fire, and a crew of two or three firefighters watch how the fire builds and how it moves across the room. Coleman said the firefighters also watch how the smoke moves downward towards the floor, and at some point, the live burn instructor will instruct the crew to put out the fire and then the next crew comes in and repeats the process.
“Anytime you burn a home, there are a lot of hurdles you have to jump,” Coleman said. “We have been preparing for this for about four months.”
According to Coleman, the first step in the controlled burn process is the asbestos inspection. The house that is set to be used has to be completely clear of asbestos and gets inspected by a certified environmental company that is not affiliated with any fire department.
Paperwork has to be submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency, N.C. Division of Air Quality, N.C. Health Hazard Control Unit, and the Office of the State Fire Marshall.
“Strict guidelines have to be met to prep the house for burning, all with safety in mind,” Coleman added. “The yard has to be clear of all debris, the house has to be clear of all furniture and all carpet has to be removed, so all that is there is the frame of the house. You must have a certified live burn instructor, which ours came from the Raleigh Fire Department, and you must have certified fire instructors per so many students, which were provided by Sampson Community College from instructors throughout Sampson County.”
The entire event, Coleman said, was a great learning experience for all the fire and rescue personnel who assisted in the controlled burn.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.