Live fire exercise 8.11.2014

This has been a peculiar year as we’ve had the opportunity to have two live fire exercises followed by controlled burns of the buildings once we are done exercising. The house this time was a traditional post-war single family home that often has livable areas in the basement and top floor but they could be initially left unfinished.

firefighters and hoselines

We only used the ground floor during our exercise since the second floor was much too open to burn in a controlled fashion. The basement was left untouched due to safety concerns.

Door covered in soot from the fire

firegfighters entering smoky room

I also had a GoPro attached to my helmet, but our first attack (in which I was participating and not photographing) was so hot that my helmet and the GoPro housing took quite a bit of damage. The fact that it was so hot also meant that I got about five seconds of usable footage before the world went dark from smoke. If nothing else, that footage can serve as an excellent example of what the reality of entering a burning building is like when compared to what is seen in movies and TV.

firefighters entering a smoky room

flames in a burning building

Flames from a house fire during a controlled burn

Burning down a house – a timelapse

Flames inside a burning house

Last weekend at we had a chance to burn down an old cottage that was to be demolished. We try to get at least one exercise like this each year, if only possible as the chance to exercise with live fire is always beneficial. And for the umpteenth time, I also had my camera along to document the exercise and fire. This time I also brought along my GoPro to shoot a timelapse of it all.

I started shooting the timelapse from the lake side where we would be entering the cottage from to put it out and relight it. In the timelapse about half of the footage was shot from this side during the time when we went in and put out the fire to practice that aspect of our work. We started out in the right hand side of the building, then later moved to do a couple of runs in the left hand side while the right side was already burning quite strongly.

Once we stopped practicing and proceeded to burn down the cottage in a controlled fashion, the camera was moved to be next to one of our fire trucks. My unit left the scene was the controlled burn was nearing the final stages, so the timelapse doesn’t continue to the complete end. You can see the video below:

Yours truly can be spotted in several frames as the firefighter with a beard and possibly carrying a DSLR. I shot several photographs inside the cottage while it was burning and outside during the controlled burn. I will be processing the images shortly and publishing them as well. While waiting for them, you can always go and see pictures from older live fire exercises in our gallery.

Smoke, heat, and some flames – pictures from inside a burning house

You all know how in the movies structural fires have these nice flames and no smoke at all, right? Well, the truth is quite far from it – at least in the beginning. A few weeks ago our station had a live fire exercise in a house that would have otherwise been torn down.

For us to stay current with our training, we have to have at least one exercise per year in full gear and in hot conditions. That is, we have to train with live fire either in a simulator or by setting fire to a structure and putting it out repeatedly. Alas, most years we have to satisfy ourselves with simulators since finding suitable structures that are going to be torn down is difficult.

As with real fires, gearing up properly is extremely important and we check each others gear before going into the smoky and hot building. In most cases, at least if the structure can still be saved, the rooms are filled with smoke and heat. Moving around in an unfamiliar structure where visibility is minimal is done by crawling and touching everything.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get really big fires going between the pairs that went in so in most cases I didn’t get any suitable pictures since without any flames it was extremely dark.

However, once the ceiling caved in over one of the rooms, we got a movie-like fire going on that I could photograph a bit. By this time being in the building was already quite hazardous since the house had been burning for some time and shooting time was very limited.

Of course, once we can’t practice inside, we complete the teardown by burning the house in a controlled fashion while protecting the surrounding areas.

All in all, all of us got to go in at least once – I think most managed to go in twice. I went in once without a camera and then six or seven times with the camera. As you can imagine, I was feeling quite toasty after the last time. Shooting while completely covered in turnout gear and the breathing mask is challenging – especially when shooting with an older camera without live view. I used our backup, the 30D for this shoot since I’ll never risk our primary inside a burning building.

More pictures in our gallery. You might also be interested in the pictures from our previous live fire exercise in 2008.