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Learning to fight fire

TVF&R train 15 recruits with controlled house fire on Denney Road


by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighter recruits snake a hose into an old house during a test burn Wednesday morning along Southwest Denney Road.You might have noticed heavy smoke in the air Wednesday morning and early afternoon.

Don't worry — everything was under control.

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue crews participated in training exercises between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. during a controlled burn along Southwest Denney Road.

The burn provided an opportunity for new recruits, 15 in this case, to fight a real structural fire.

“They get to actually fight fire in a real house for the first time,” said Milt Villegas, a TVF&R training captain and the safety officer for the burn. “They learn to read smoke, which is an ability to understand what the fire is doing.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighter trainees and crews practice a test burn on an old house on Southwest Denney Road.

Many factors play into whether a structure can be used for a controlled burn exercise, so each opportunity is crucial for learning, he said. The house must be in the right location and meet multiple structural requirements before it can be used in a burn. For this drill, the house was donated by Habitat for Humanity, which plans to begin building on the property by 2016.

The day of firefighting was full of exercises, with training officers setting fire to a room and then having recruits coming in to extinguish it before a new fire was set for different recruits. At any given time, four firefighters were in the house with two additional training officers. At the end of the day, a “terminal burn” was set, which burned the structure to the ground.

“This is a great opportunity for our newest firefighters to experience the deadly heat and toxic smoke of a house fire in a controlled environment," said Matt Laas, a TVF&R training officer. "Although TVF&R firefighters frequently train with live fire in specially designed training props at our Training Center, the opportunity to gain experience on a fire in a real home is invaluable."

Through this experience, new recruits not only learned about fires and how to fight them, they also learned about teamwork.

“They go in together and come out together,” said Villegas. “We want to ingrain that in them.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighter recruits practice a test burn on an old house on Southwest Denney Road.



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