Day 6 — Live Fire!
Each of the fire crews got to participate in an observation burn, which allowed students to sit and watch fire behavior. The burn consisted of a giant pile of wood and paper set on fire inside a shipping container. The fire produced immense amounts of heat and smoke, magnified by the compartment. The gases and smoke would build up, causing a rollover fire, which at points was just inches from our PPE. We were able to see how the fire behavior changed when water was added to the fire, how the behavior would change if we cooled the overhead of the fire area, and what happened if the fire was allowed to burn.
The environment that the fire was started in was highly controlled, with three separate hose lines set up for safety, and three instructors inside with you. For me, it was especially important to witness this fire behavior because we have read about it and been taught about it, but had not actually seen it until today. There is no way to describe how uncomfortably hot it was. The PPE did its job protecting us, but with that kind of heat and smoke buildup, there really is no way that you can insulate yourself from the fire completely.
I felt completely safe because of the instructor guidance and experience but wonder if the excitement of seeing that fire behavior may have masked fears of being burned. It was not until after the fire was put out and I was observing other groups that I realized how bad a structure fire could be. The observation burn helped us understand our own physical and mental limitations when dealing with containerized fire. I am looking forward to seeing more fire in action during the second week of training.