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Mobile fire simulator assists area training efforts

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

Approximately 50 firefighters and cadets from seven different area departments extinguished fires all day Saturday in a trailer simulating a three-bedroom, two-story house at Station 92 in Truckee.

Personnel from North Tree Fire Department, a private firm based in Monterey that offers contracted fire training, simulated a structure fire using propane, which was released through various appliances in the trailer.

“That’s as close as you can get to a real structure fire without having a real structure fire,” said Truckee Fire District Chief Mike Terwilliger. “Mostly it helped the (fire fighters and cadets) learn to have confidence in their protective clothing and equipment.”

The fire trailer is equipped with sophisticated technology that allows personnel to simulate fire with clean-burning propane and non-toxic, artificial smoke from a touch screen computer pictogram.

North Tree Fire Department, which owns the trailer, is able take the mobile training facility to fire departments all over the country.

“This is much more environmentally friendly and much safer than an actual structure fire. From the control room, the fire can be shut down instantly,” said Alex Cumming from ICS, the Canadian company that made the fire trailer.

ICS produces fire simulators, helps with conversions and firefighter training all over the world.

Cumming said that traditionally more firefighters were being injured in training than real structure fires. Fire departments would use wood, straw and diesel to burn actual structures, which can’t be “shut off” in case of emergency and also pollute the air.

“With this, we have complete control. We can also do a lot more training in a short period of time,” he said. “The beauty of this is that is can be brought to any fire department.”

While TFPD firefighters entered the trailer by crews Saturday morning, North Tree Fire Capt. Duncan Todd worked the control room. He had the layout of the rooms on a laptop computer indicating what the temperatures were in each room at the floor and ceiling levels and various other control features. When the first crew entered to put out a fire in the kitchen, the temperature at the ceiling was 130 degrees. After a day of use, the temperature can reach up to 500 degrees at the ceiling level, said Todd.

Each firefighter ran a water hose and nozzle into the trailer to practice controlling the fire, using their equipment and protective gear and other firefighting techniques. If any emergency occurred, the fire could be put out with a touch of a button, and within one minute the heat could be out of the building, said Todd.

“The advantage of this system is that it is clean burning and you can see what you’re doing. The speed at what you can get your personnel through is much more efficient,” he said.

Terwilliger said that he was very pleased with the performance of all of the firefighters that day and the cadets who were completing their final day of fire academy.

“It went really well. They started them out slowly with confidence training, and then went through the evolutions of actual fire. They were really tentative and fearful in the beginning of the day, but their confidence was at 100 percent by the end of the day,” he said.

Terwilliger said he was very pleased by the teamwork shown by TFPD fire crews.

“It helps the troops work as teams. Structure fires are really more organized than people think,” said Terwilliger.


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