Listen and learn

Four-Mile Fire Chief Jay Teague instructs fire fighters

while Josh Matheny (right) and Michael Scott (left) of Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control look on. 

Lake George Fire Protection District recently hosted a four-day training session for firefighters in their department as well as other agencies in the area. In addition to Lake George, around 50 firefighters from Jefferson/Como, Florissant, Hartsel and Four-Mile Fire Protection Districts took advantage of this unique and valuable training.

“Whenever I see an opportunity for training, I stop what I am doing and sign up,” said LGFPD Fire Chief Susan Bernstetter.

The four-day training included a Mobile Live Fire Training Unit (MLFTU). The goal of the program was to provide departments without good access to live fire training facilities an opportunity to train with live fire in a safe and controlled environment. In order to maximize the use of the MLFTU, Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) encourages departments to work with their surrounding agencies and mutual aid partners to develop regional training opportunities. Josh Matheny, North East Regional Training Officer of DFPC, led the training with the MLFTU. Assisting him was Section Chief of Professional Qualifications and training, Michael Scott. Four-Mile Fire Chief Jay Teague, a federally certified Master Level 3 Fire Instructor, also assisted.

The MLFTU is a 53-foot trailer that is designed to resemble a two-story house with a variety of rooms to simulate what fire fighters would encounter in a fire situation. It is configured to accommodate above, below and grade-level fire scenarios through the use of a hydraulically-operated second story. The fire is produced using propane fuel. In addition, the MLFTU has a roof ventilation prop, a forcible entry prop and movable walls on the first floor to provide multiple set-up configurations.

Teams of firefighters entered the facility facing smoke and dark conditions, and had to assess the situation and battle the fire accordingly. The fire or fires were set off remotely to simulate what could be encountered in a real fire situation. There were even weight-appropriate dummies that had to be rescued, including a family pet. “It’s realistic equipment that allows firefighters to train in attack mode, because several scenarios can be created in the trailer,” said Scott.

This training methodology and apparatus also allows fire districts to remain in service and able to respond to any real-life emergencies that might occur.

It was noted that all live fire training sessions using MLFTU will meet or exceed all of the NFPA National Fire Protection Association requirements for safety. These units are designed to train firefighters and to assess the tools and personal abilities when they are faced with a real time situation. Rural, volunteer fire departments are afforded this opportunity free of charge. The MLFTUs were acquired through a grant from FEMA. Due to weather concerns, this training is only offered six months out of the year and they have two units for the entire state.

“This training is designed to teach fire-fighters in a realistic yet non-critical situation. It gives everyone a chance to learn from their mistakes and makes them far more efficient,” said Matheny.

Trent Smith, fire chief of Jefferson/Como Fire Protection District, who has been a firefighter for almost 30 years, said this training was a great asset to rural areas. “It’s an excellent way to prepare new firefighters for what they could face in real time situations,” he said.

“This was great for learning techniques and improving skills. It helps you overcome the fear of going into pitch black and smoke and fire and I really benefited from this,” said Chad Timinskis, who has been with LGFPD for two years.

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