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Brian Johnson, Hollins assistant chief, gives a safety briefing on the trailer to participating area firefighters. Photo submitted by Heather Babecki
Area firefighters prepare to enter the Alabama Fire College “burn trailer” for hands-on training. Photo submitted by Heather Babecki
Into the inferno: Firefighters enter the “burn trailer” with live flames, intense heat, smoke, and steam to undergo training. Photo submitted by Heather Babecki
By Heather Babecki
Assistant chief, Hanover VFD
Hanover Volunteer Fire Department was the location of a combined department training exercise hosted by Hanover VFD of Coosa County and Hollins Fire and Rescue of Clay County.
On September 18, 20, and 21, one of Alabama Fire College’s mobile fire-training units, known as a “burn trailer,” was set up at the Hanover Volunteer Fire Department.
The mobile training unit is a multipurpose vehicle with a self-contained electrical system and large volume remote-control propane burners. It is used to safely simulate firefighting in the interior of a burning structure.
With live flames, intense heat, smoke, and steam, the instructor-controlled experience is heart-pounding for the uninitiated the first time in.
There are small rooms and nooks inside that lend themselves to exercises such as searching for victims hidden in a smoke-filled house. An upper platform on the roof allows a descending staircase to simulate entry or egress by firefighters on a multistory structure fire.
The two most vocal and visible instructors for the exercise were Hollins Fire & Rescue Assistant Chief Brian Johnson and Hanover Chief Verlon Quesenberry. Both were mild-mannered and patient with instructing all the firefighters as they worked their way through this exciting training exercise.
While Hollins and Hanover were the majority, there were firefighters representing most all of the Coosa County fire departments with an especially large turnout from Goodwater, Equality and Ray Volunteer Fire departments. One firefighter came all the way from Shinbone Valley Volunteer Fire Department in Clay County to participate in the training exercise.
Goodwater and Kellyton Fire departments stationed an ambulance and paramedic on alternating training days to stand by and provide emergency medical care for the participants should the need have arisen.
“Live fire training is a proficiency requirement for certified firefighters. The ‘burn trailer’ is a very powerful and dynamic tool,” said Hanover VFD Assistant Chief Heather Babecki. “It allows fire veterans to refresh their skills while teaching new recruits. We are constantly looking for people to fill our ranks as older members age-out. Interior firefighting is very strenuous work, fit for younger members. This incredible tool provided by the Alabama Fire College allows departments to bring in new members and introduce them to the extremes of fire fighting in a controlled manner. For the new or inexperienced firefighter, putting on full protective gear with SCBA (an air tank) can be intimidating. A lot of new recruits are surprised by the weight once all the gear is on and tools or hose are in hand. You instantly gain 60 to 80 pounds. All this is combined with the confusion of going into a tight space with flames licking the roof and 600-degree temperatures around you. It can be daunting for the first timer. This is why we thank the Alabama Fire Collage for this invaluable tool they provide. It is so important to us; it makes the unfamiliar familiar and does it in a completely controlled and safe environment.”
Volunteer fire departments across the country are in desperate need of volunteers and financial aid. It is not just a Coosa County problem.
If you would like to help your community, please reach out to your community fire department. You don’t need any experience to get started. You just need to say “I want to help my community.”
Not every member must suit up and fight fire. There are many support roles in a fire department. The skills you use in your everyday job will probably translate somewhere into the fire service and are desperately needed. It can be one of the most fulfilling things you ever do.
In rural Coosa County, your neighbors are the fire department. “You” are the fire department. Be one of those neighbors helping neighbors in a time of need.
Since 1736, volunteer fire departments have been the backbone of the U.S. fire service. Do not let this rich history and tradition slip away; please volunteer today.