Fire…in the name of training

Flames leap to the ceiling inside a metal shipping container as temperatures reach 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Scenes from firefighter training Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 on Saunders Drive in Cornwall, Ont. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – While the principles of a fire haven’t changed, Cornwall firefighters have to adapt to what we are putting in our homes.

Cornwall Newswatch spent Friday afternoon with the members of Platoon 2A during a live burn exercise to find out about changes in how to fight fires.

It capped off a week of the fire department’s first live burning exercise, which was held on Saunders Drive in the city’s west end in a fabricated burn container. The T-shaped building has a number of doors and windows.

“It’s been fantastic. The guys that we hired to deliver the training are really impressed how the (shipping) container came together and how it looks. It’s going to be a really useful tool for us,” Fire Chief Pierre Voisine said.

The training was performed by Matt Wehrle and Mike Langford of Firestar Training near London, Ont.

The chief indicated the building will eventually negate the need to travel to Ottawa to use a training facility there.

“For years, training has been difficult in Cornwall. This is part of us meeting the Fire Master Plan requirements. We are now in a position where we can do more training cost-effectively within the city limits and really hone our skills,” Voisine said.

As the facility gets built, Voisine anticipates they will be able to expand into hazmat and high angle firefighting drills.

Firefighters get ready to do battle as part of transitional fire training. Scenes from firefighter training Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 on Saunders Drive in Cornwall, Ont. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

The latest technique

The new technical tools are called transitional attack (the way water is used on the outside of the building to cool a fire) and Slice RS (a technique for sizing up or evaluating fires).

“We’re building tool boxes for firefighters so they show up at a fire and depending on what’s happening they will select a tactic that’s more appropriate to use rather than do the same old thing every time,” Fire Chief Pierre Voisine told Cornwall Newswatch.

Firefighter and Acting Captain Bryan Ward told CNW transitional attack is something that has to be used because fires have changed.

“Modern contents and construction burns differently. The environments are a lot more dangerous for the occupants,” Ward said.

It was thought that shooting water on a house fire with the occupants inside would create a situation where they were severely injured by steam from the water quickly evaporating.

“We apply the proper application – a straight stream (of water), not a fog. Fog (like a mist) will put air in and the fire will actually grow. If we use a straight stream, there’s no air introduced, the fire can’t grow,” Ward explained.

He added that firefighters have learned they can cool a fire from the outside instead of heading in a doorway, introducing oxygen, and actually aggravating the fire.

“If the opportunity is there…the fire is vented out any opening – a door, a window – cool it, because that is where the fire is and you have the opportunity to hit it as quickly as possible,” Ward said.

Science is showing that spraying a direct stream of water through an open window will not only force the toxic smoke out of the building but will rapidly cool a fire from roughly 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit (593 degrees Celsius) to around 200 degrees (93 Celsius) in a matter of minutes.

During the training “the guys inside (firefighters inside the burning shipping container) are getting a chance to watch the fire grow. Temperatures up to 1,100, 1,200 degrees and then they’re still in there, which we never would have done in the past, they’re still in the container when they cool it from the outside and they see that the temperature drop down to 200 degrees that rapidly and they don’t get steam burns,” Ward explained.

“It’s going to make it safer for occupants. If we show up and there’s somebody trapped. In the past we would try to go in. We may cool from the outside because the opportunity is there. We are going to cool which is going to make is safer for those people inside. We get rid of the heat and the toxic gasses.”

Platoon 2A Chief Luc Richer was inside the container for the transition attack. “The heat went up to 1,200 and as they started to apply water to the transitional attack, the heat started coming down. When they really put the water to it, the temperature went down the 145. No steam, no burns, no nothing. It makes a believer out of you.”

The added danger with modern materials is the smoke from them burning is also fuel. Bryan Ward said they did experiments where they captured smoke from an experimental burn and were able to set the smoke on fire.

The shipping container live burn building. Scenes from firefighter training Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 on Saunders Drive in Cornwall, Ont. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)


Training facility coming together thanks to donations

Fire Chief Pierre Voisine said the training facility on Saunders Drive in the city’s west end is slowly coming together.

With scarce resources in the fire department budget, Voisine says a number a community groups and individuals have donated buildings, containers and other materials.

Two large portables were donated by a company from Morrisburg. “One of those buildings will is going to be become a classroom and the other one is going to become a rescue maze (for firefighter training).”

Donated shipping containers will eventually be built into a home with stairs for firefighters to work on their skills.

Bob Donkers Millwriting in Williamstown did the fabrication for the metal container training facility that was put together one under two weeks.

The straw for burning was supplied by Keith Wells from Charlottengro Farms in South Glengarry. Ridgewood Industries and Morbern donated pallets and MDF boards for the burn.

Click on an image below to see a gallery of photos of firefighters in action during the transitional live burn training.