MOUNT VERNON — At its most intense, a firefighter’s work can involve cutting through a roof with a chainsaw, crawling through a basement window or carrying a person down a narrow hallway. It’s work that requires sharp skills and quick thinking, so practice is important. It’s also difficult to come by.
“It’s hard for us to just go set a building on fire and practice. You can’t do that,” said Captain Trevor Williams of the Mount Vernon Fire Department. “It’s hard for us to find a house that someone will let us make a hole in.” Members of the MVFD will now be able to practice anytime thanks to a set of training equipment built by construction and building trades students at the Knox County Career Center.
The equipment includes a roof simulator and a Denver box, which replicates a narrow hallway. Lt. Joshua Lester, who handles training for the department, said that since most of the pieces are adjustable, the props can be used to prepare for hundreds of scenarios a squad might face — from victim rescue to ventilating a burning building.
“This is pretty big,” said Lester. “It takes time to get buildings donated for us to destroy. Now we can (train) daily in our firehouse.”
The roof is built with a slot for replaceable materials that can be sawed through without ruining the entire structure. This allows firefighters to rehearse with any type of roofing material.
“With new guys coming in to the service, these props give us the ability to get out there and train, so when these situations happen, they’re well prepared and know what to do,” said Lester. “We can take all the training we would need from a residential home or dilapidated building and do it in our firehouse.”
Williams, Lester and other firefighters visited KCCC Friday morning to demonstrate how the equipment would be used for training. KCCC construction instructor Keith Chester, who oversaw the project, said it took students about a month to build. He acquired the 40-page blueprint for the props from a firefighter in Wisconsin who specializes in fire service training. “I emailed him, told him we were a local career center and we wanted to help out the local fire department and he emailed me the plans,” said Chester. “It’s been a good project and we’re happy to do it to help the fire department out.”
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