House of portable flames
BRIGHTON — There, in front of the team of firefighters, was the enemy: a two-story steel trailer with smoke pouring from the cracks in the windows and out some of the exhaust vents on top.
As the group, weighed down with a heavy high-pressure fire hose as well as about 80 pounds of personal equipment per firefighter, moved forward to the stairs leading to a door in the side of the trailer, the smoke became even thicker. A teammate threw the door open and the firefighters were faced with a wall of flames. Directing the hose onto it, the team moved forward to extinguish the blaze.
On Saturday and Sunday, members of Brighton, Sigourney and Ainsworth fire departments – and any others who showed up — had the opportunity to train on one of the Iowa Fire Service Training Bureau’s mobile training units. The large steel trailer simulates the inside of a building and allows firefighters to practice new techniques. This one — the Interior Fire Attack Simulator — includes a stairway leading to the top where a second level is simulated.
“It’s just a good safe training,” Brighton fire chief Bill Farmer said. “This is a controlled training where with a real house fire or if you burned an old building down (for firefighters to practice) you can lose control of the fire easily.”
Farmer said the simulator had to be scheduled close to a year earlier to come to Brighton. The trailer had been in Brighton two years ago, but the day it was there, the temperature shot past 100 degrees. He decided to schedule the trailer to come to Brighton earlier when the temperature was more comfortable.
He said the new firefighters who have never been in this kind of situation particularly benefit from the training, although even old hands were learning. He said the smoke was a little whiter, making vision just a little better.
“You still don’t see a darn thing in here,” he said.
Brian Himner, a fire instructor for the bureau, said that scheduling the trailer for training is a trick. The trailer is booked every weekend during the time it is offered. The trailer travels all over the state from the beginning of March until the end of September. The waiting list is about a year long.
“It’s the most active trailer the company that built this has,” Himner said.
He said the trailer is self-contained and the second story comes apart, making it road worthy. It is fired by propane and uses nitrogen to lift the smoke inside the trailer. The trailer simulates the conditions firefighters find inside a structure fire.
Himner said the trailer is used for firefighters to practice live-fire attacks and ventilation. The firefighters also do some Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) training, which involves finding a downed firefighter.
The $1 million trailer allows instructors to critique firefighters on operations.