By Homer Robertson
Published Wednesday, January 4, 2012
| From the January 2012 Issue of FireRescue
If you’re a company officer or a training officer for your department, you’re probably always looking for the next drill or training idea to bring to the troops.
Younger firefighters are much more visual and are drawn to interactive types of training. With the focus on training in the January issue of FireRescue magazine and online at FirefighterNation, I’d like to show you one of my favorite hands-on training props. It’s always a hit with firefighters, and it’s and easy to build because it uses materials that are more than likely in your garage.
I first saw this idea in a class taught by Chief Stewart Rose (ret.) of the Seattle Fire Department—my thanks to him for sharing. This is a great multi-purpose prop that can be used to teach fire behavior in void spaces and reinforce how to use your thermal imaging camera (TIC).
Building the Prop
As you can see in the first photo, this entire prop is a small-scale model of a framed up wall with two vertical wall voids. You can make this prop as large as you want, depending on the materials you have. I like to build it about 24 inches wide by 48 inches high. Regardless of the size, the steps are the same:
- Using 2 x 4s, create a simple box frame with one 2 x 4 in the middle on 12" centers.
- After building the frame, cover both sides with ¼-inch plywood, totally enclosing the framed box.
- Using a jigsaw, make an opening along the bottom of the box that exposes both void spaces (see photo 1).
- On the opposite side at the top of the prop, make an opening about the size of a dollar bill.
Your prop is now ready to use!
Using the Prop
In the dollar-bill-size opening, stuff as much newspaper as you can to tightly fill the opening (see photo 2). This acts as a barrier to smoke and heat while conducting the first segment of the training.
With a large propane-type torch, start heating the bottom opening. These torches are often called weed burners; fire academies use them to start training fires in their burn structures.
Work the torch flame back and forth along the bottom of the prop, keeping the heat as even as possible. As the wood starts to heat and ignition begins, use your TIC to watch how the prop reacts.
The view in your TIC is different when conducting training in the station than in a super-heated environment, such as the inside of a structure fire.
In the station, warm or hot items, like wall plugs or other people, will give off a white or lighter signature than the surroundings. In a super-heated environment, those things may appear darker than the surrounding space because they’re cooler.
After everyone has had a chance to look though the TIC, pull the newspaper out of the upper opening and continue to use the torch on the bottom.
Looking through the TIC again, you should be able to see how far the heat and fire are traveling up the wall void. The side with the opening at the top will show more vertical extension than the other side. This is because the side without a vertical opening doesn’t have a good path for the heat and fire to follow. The same thing will happen in real structure fires. Note: Click on the slideshow to the right to see TIC images of the prop on fire.
Be sure to have water and/or an extinguisher on hand to control the prop as it burns. Also choose a safe place to burn the prop, and follow proven safe practices as you would with any live burn.
This quick and easy-to-build training prop works great to demonstrate the importance of checking for vertical extension, while also helping reinforce concepts of fire behavior and the use of a TIC.
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