When Sarah Smith built a new home on her property in Centerburg, she was given a deadline to remove the house she had vacated. She could either pay to have it demolished or donate it to a fire training academy for the purposes of practicing a controlled burn. In December of 2016, Sarah contacted the Delaware Area Career Center’s Fire Program Director, Kevin Murphy, and asked if he and his students could burn her house down.
“Acquired structures such as Sarah’s house are hard to come by,” explains Murphy. “First of all, it’s rare for someone to even have a structure they need to dispose of and then once we do find one, it has to pass a number of inspections by the the EPA. If any one of those inspections fails, we can’t conduct the Live Fire Training.”
Over five months of preparation by DACC Fire Instructors and volunteers from local fire departments such as Columbus Fire, Washington Township Fire, Plain Township Fire, and Hartford Volunteer Fire went into preparing the house for the day of the Live Fire Training that took place on May 6th. During these five months, DACC Fire Instructors were also preparing a class of 14 adult firefighting students for this intense training and ultimately, a career in firefighting.
“The time and effort we put into preparing for this day is well worth it,” said Austin Kerns, Lead Instructor for the DACC Fire Program. “There is no better way to simulate a true house fire and experience the rigors of this type of emergency than to conduct a live burn.”
For the first time, these students were joined inside the burning structure by community leaders. State Representative Andrew Brenner, Delaware City Schools Superintendent Paul Craft, and DACC Superintendent Mary Beth Freeman entered the burning house, escorted by DACC Fire Instructors and full time firefighters. They experienced not only the weight of the equipment and the heat of the flames, but also the near-zero visibility that often presents a hazard for first responders in an emergency. Afterwards, Murphy discussed the importance of investing resources in training and equipment to protect firefighters and help them to be more effective in emergency situations.
By the end of the DACC Firefighter Program, students will have completed 301 hours of fire training, including 16 hours of an emergency vehicle driving course, and 4 hours of life safety initiatives. When a structure is available to burn, the Live Fire Operations Training becomes the capstone of the program.
All guidelines, policies, & procedures were adhered to per NFPA1403 – Live Fire Acquired Structure Burning Plan.
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