FLINT TWP. — Imaging crawling through a smoke-filled room wearing 80 pounds of equipment when the floor collapses beneath you. Or climbing down into a sewer to rescue a trapper utility worker. Or entering a burning basement to rescue a smoker who has set the house on fire. Or using a ladder or rope harnesses to rescue trapped people out of second and third floor windows.
Firefighters face those and many other life-and-death scenarios on a regular basis. All of them and more can now be practiced in a new firefighting training unit available for countywide use.
A tour of the new equipment, purchased with a federal grant and local donations, was provided during an open house last week.
Bob Johnson, deputy chief of the Burton Fire Department, is among local firefighters who have become certified trainers for the new unit.
“It takes five certified instructors to run this,” said Johnson, who was among the first group trained after the unit arrived in June.
Trainers have to know what they doing because situations created inside the trailers are virtually identical to those in a real fire except they are being controlled by various monitors and methods outside of the trailer.
The trainers set up the scenarios inside they want trainees to experience, Johnson said.
He led a tour through the twin trailers pointing out the various ways they can be used to simulate fire scenes.
That includes a’ live burn’ room where temperatures can get up to 900 degrees. The room has a fire brick floor and a ventilated roof to help trainers outside the unit monitor and control what’s happening inside.
Unlike a burning house, when the training ends the room is still standing to be reused over and over again.
From the roof, firefighters can practice lowering rescued fire victims from second and third floor windows. A hose connector is available on the roof for hooking up to a water source.
In another rooftop area, firefighters can practice chopping through a roof that can be raised and lowered to different pitches. It is made of the same materials as most residential roofs, Johnson said.
Inside, firefighters face the surprise of collapsing floors and the experience of climbing through a tube similar to a sewer hole or other tight space.
Interior walls can be adjusted to create a maze of opening firefighters feel their way trough on search and rescue missions.
Firefighters can also practice forcible entry techniques on locked doors and windows.
The training trailers will be permanently housed at the Flint Township Fire Department but moved around to other fire departments as needed.
It is headed to Clio next for about a month before moving on to Davison and then the southern part of the county.