Leland firefighters test skills on real burning building

Reported by Claire Simms - bio|email
Posted by Kristy Ondo - email

LELAND, NC (WECT) - Smoke and fire lit up the sky in Leland Wednesday night as part of a training exercise for the fire department. 

Leland firefighters got a chance to battle a live fire and use a special tool to improve their skills.

"You can go sit in a classroom and read a book, but until you actually do it, that doesn't mean a thing," said Leland firefighter Kelly Gore.

The training took place underneath the Brunswick County water tower off of Highway 74/76.

The exercise is based around a flaming trailer. Once this trailer ignites, the firefighters actually go inside and try to control the flames.

"When you hit the water with the smoke, it blackens the room out," said firefighter Colby Ballard.  "You can't see anything, even with flashlights, so it definitely changes a lot and being able to see it helps."

The exercise wouldn't be possible without money from the Department of Homeland Security.   The Calabash Fire Department bought the trailer with grant money last fall and is loaning it to crews all over Brunswick County.

The estimated $250,000 trailer is a valuable training opportunity in a port area, because putting out a fire in a metal structure like a shipping container is completely different from a burning building.

Training is important for even the most experienced firefighters, because the way buildings are built is constantly changing.  With more synthetic materials being used in construction and furniture items, it is necessary that firefighters learn how to knock down the smoke with water, because synthetic items do not burn completely before they are released into the air.

"When your air starts getting hot that you're breathing in, that was the hardest part for me, because then it makes you feel like everything's hot," said Ballard.  "Your hands are hot, your shoulders are hot, and now your air you're breathing is hot."

The hands-on training also helps the department bond as a team.

"If you're in that kind of situation, you know they're going to be there for you," said Gore.

She knows that making it out of a fire is just as important as going in.

The Leland fire department held three training sessions last week and is hosting two this week. Leland firefighters will have one more training session with the trailer on Thursday before the Winnabow Fire Department gets  a chance to use the equipment next week.

The fire department got to bring the trailer to Leland.  That way, if the fire were to get out of control, they would have all their normal resources available to put it out.

Louisiana Pacific donated the plywood to burn during the exercise, and a local stable donated the hay with which to start the blaze. 

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