Cape firefighters take part in ‘live fire’ training exercise
The Cape Coral Fire Department typically goes around putting out fires – it does not start them.
But that was not the case this week at a vacant residence at 2216 N.E. 11th Ave. as more than a dozen firefighters took part in a “live fire” training exercise. Over two days, they ignited fires inside the home using wood pallets and hay, which crews then had to extinguish, before burning it all down Thursday.
“I want to make sure our folks are the best prepared that they can be,” Division Chief Ryan Lamb, of the department’s Division of Professional Standards, which oversees training and education, said.
Because the city does not possess the necessary training facilities, Cape firefighters normally have to travel to the Fort Myers Fire Academy for live fire exercises. While the department tries to get its crews out to the Fort Myers facility at least once every quarter, it typically only occurs once or twice a year.
So, routine fire training for the Cape usually involves simulated conditions and scenarios.
But not this week.
Lamb explained that the department had been using the city-owned property for over a year – search and rescue exercises using smoke machines, ladder training from the second floor and more. But when the home was scheduled for demolition, officials jumped on the chance to conduct a live fire exercise.
“Simulations are good,” Andrea Schuch, public education specialist and spokeswoman for the department, said. “But it’s nice when we have an opportunity like this.”
Lamb added that the last time anyone could recall a live exercise in the city was in the ’90s.
He explained that for the department to use a structure for live fire training, there is a long list of requirements to be addressed. For this one, officials had to confirm that there was nothing nearby and no asbestos, obtain a Department of Environmental Protection permit, board up holes and more.
On Wednesday, the department set burns in two sections of the home for training. Cape fire inspectors later walked through using the extinguished flames an opportunity to hone their own skills.
“We want to take as much advantage of it as possible,” Schuch said.
On Thursday, five trucks and 13 firefighters were divided up into teams to take turns battling a fire ignited in the living room, which officials reported could get up to 800 degrees in 30 minutes.
“Every crew has a live fire trainer with them,” Lamb said.
“We’re going for safety,” he added.
Teams were tasked with search and rescue inside of the home, fire tactical or extinguishing the fire, pulling water from the backyard canal using hoses or serving as the backup crew in case of a problem.
Firefighters focused on several objectives, such as monitoring the fire’s behavior, managing the water hoses, looking for signs of when the burning object might combust and reiterating basics, like stay low.
“The firefighters go in and study the smoke,” Schuch said. “They’re looking for different patterns.”
“It helps to ingrain what all the firefighters have learned,” she added.
The training also aids crews in staying current on the newest processes and techniques.
“Things change, building styles change, materials change,” Schuch said.
She offered the following basic, fire safety tips for residents:
* If a fire occurs, stay as low as possible by crawling.
* Get out of the residence as quickly as possible.
* Once you are outside, do not go back into the home.
* Have a location where your family can meet at.
“That’s really important, especially with kids, so everybody knows that everyone made it out safely,” Schuch said.