Mobile training facility in Steamboat provides convenient, live fire training
A 53-foot trailer parked at the base of the Howelsen Hill Ski Area offered members of Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue a rare opportunity on Thursday, July 14, to take part in live fire training without leaving town.
“The ability to do live fire training while we’re on duty and still be able to respond to calls is pretty huge for us,” said Joe Oakland, a captain with Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue. “Normally, we send crews to Hayden because they have a live fire facility out there, which is awesome.”
The downside is that while those crews are traveling to and from Hayden, and taking part in the training they are out of service, and unable to respond to calls. Because of this Oakland said the department normally handles the conflict with training by sending firefighters to live fire training when they are off duty. The department pays overtime while the firefighters are training.
However, when a medical call came in Thursday, Oakland was able to let three of his crew members take the call while the others continued to train: a big plus for the captain.
The mobile live fire training trailer visited Steamboat Springs for several days thanks to the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, which has two trailers that travel around the state.
“Our intent is to travel around to agencies that don’t have the resources or facilities to conduct live-burn evolutions,” said Josh Matheny, regional training officer for the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Training. “We arrive and deploy this burn prop where we have at-grade, and below-grade fire control opportunities.”
Matheny said his agency purchased two trailers when the program began about four years ago using the Assistance to Firefighters grant program through FEMA. Now, four regional training officers travel across the state training fire fighters.
The trailer has a gas-powered burner, which simulates the heat and conditions a firefighter may encounter in a house fire.
“A small residential structure is the most common structure in town,” Oakland said. “It is a common event for us, and it’s one of the highest life hazard events.”
Oakland said the conditions inside the trailer were likely better than what firefighters might see in an actual fire, but the men and women that took part are still getting the skills needed to moving the hose through a home and around corners, and then practice spraying water on fire — which they normally don’t get in a training.
“So, this is a great opportunity to come in and train in a controlled environment that gives you many parts of the actual pieces,” Oakland said. “Sure, a lot of it’s simulated — and it’s not like you can ever simulate the full aspect of it — but this is great for getting to do all the basic skills that we need to accomplish.”
Oakland said that Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue’s three shifts will train through the week. The first shift trained Tuesday, the second shift took its turn Thursday and the final shift is expected to train on Saturday. Members of each shift went through a number of simulations designed to hone their skills in certain situations. He noted that not all of the situations are the same, but he believes that additional training will better prepare the firefighters for what they might see.
“Ultimately, we are just delivering a safe training platform,” Matheny said. “It’s a needed training for each agency because ultimately they are just bettering themselves, bettering their agency and their response capabilities.”
Matheny said the Division of Fire Prevention & Control trailers criss-cross the state providing this service to a number of agencies. While the trailer was in Steamboat, firefighters from the West Routt Fire Protection District were expected to train, as the opportunity was open to other departments when Steamboat Fire Rescue was not training. Matheny said the goal is to provide the training to as many departments as possible.
“This trailer came from Fairplay, and then it’s going to Craig, then to Walden and Sterling,” Matheny said. “It’s like a constant circus.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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