One of the weekend group of students and instructors pose in front of the burn facility. Photo by Kim Eliason

Live fire training highlights Quincy Fire Academy

The 2017 Quincy Fire Academy featured an unusual weekend of live fire training. About 75 firefighters from both the Academy and the region completed scenarios that included several interior fire attack challenges and various practice props, including roof ventilation and forcible entry.

The weekend was funded through a grant secured by the California State Firefighters Association, funded by the Federal Assistance to Firefighters/SAFER grant program.

Burn training can be expensive, given the cost of materials, supplies, equipment, food and propane fuel. The grant also provided refreshments and lunch.

The day started with classroom instruction on fire attack, followed by a demonstration of “flashover” in a simulated room, showing how fast the materials in modern homes can ignite and spread fire.

Historically, fire departments could do controlled burn training by helping remove old structures scheduled for demolition. Owners would often donate the structure, while saving on demolition costs. These types of burns are much harder to accomplish now due to air quality concerns and other potential safety hazards, such as the common use of asbestos in older construction. Other hazards included the potential for firefighter injuries with problems such as weak or damaged floors and roofs in old buildings.

To address the need for this training, Quincy Fire Chief Robbie Cassou and Mechanic/Maintenance Manager Charlie Read hand-built a low-cost propane-fired burn facility a few years ago, using steel shipping containers. Assisted by other firefighters such as Captain John Gay, they welded two large containers together, then modified the interiors to allow for a simulated living room, bedroom, laundry room and kitchen. In addition, doors and windows were added and moveable interior walls supporting training like forcible entry, ventilation and emergency escape for firefighters.

It is the only facility of its kind in Plumas County. The burn facility has numerous safety features, including video cameras so the propane fire operator can shut it down quickly in case of a problem and large exit doors. All firefighters were given a complete walk-through of the interior and briefed on emergency escape procedures. There were no injuries during the training.

Attack teams entered by turn from two sides of the structure, and rotated through various roles and simulations. At the same time, more firefighters practiced other skills such as chainsaw use for roof ventilation and using wood props. This kept everyone busy throughout both days, so there would be minimal “standing around” for the firefighters who had volunteered for the sessions.

The Quincy Fire Department Support Team stood by throughout the weekend, performing firefighter cooling and rehabilitation including providing lots of water.

Numerous firefighters from several area fire departments served as instructors. Graeagle Captain Cody Ward volunteered on both days, and said “… it was outstanding training for everyone. Big thanks go to Quincy and CSFA for this opportunity.”

For more information on the burn facility, visit the Plumas County Fire Chiefs Association web site at plumasfirechiefs.org/quincy-fire-academy, where there is a five-minute video tour of the structure.

Now is a good time to consider becoming a volunteer firefighter in your community. Contact your local fire department for more information.