Ready, set, fight fires

Shenandoah County firefighter/EMTs Bryan Greer, left, and Wesley Meadows attack the fire from the Kidde Fire Trainer outside the Shenandoah County Government Center in Woodstock on Thursday. The vehicle will be used to train regional firefighters in the counties of Shenandoah, Page, Frederick and Warren, as well as Winchester. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Fire trainers from the region gathered at the Shenandoah County Government Center on Thursday to train on a newly acquired training prop. The prop, funded by a $49,545 regional grant awarded by the Virginia Department Fire Services Board, is a mock car that is used to train firefighters on the management of vehicle fires.

The prop will be shared among Page, Frederick, Shenandoah and Warren counties.

“Looking at rough numbers in this county … if it makes the circuit, it will be used at least a dozen times a year in this jurisdiction,” said Bill Streett, deputy chief of training for Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue.

The prop consists of a car body made of steel, with no engine, interior or other recognizable features of a functioning car. It has several valves and inputs at the rear that are used to control a propane supply, which provides fuel for the fire.

Overseeing the training were Streett and Alex Cumming of Kidde, which manufacturers the Car Fire Trainer prop.

Alex Cumming, instructor trainer for Kidde Fire Trainers, uses a remote device to control a propane-powered car fire prop outside the Shenandoah County Government Center on Thursday. The regional fire training prop was acquired through a $50,000 grant. Rich Cooley/Daily

“It really increases our capabilities to do vehicle fire training and be able to replicate that over and over,” said Streett. “It makes it a lot cleaner and efficient in delivering that training.”

Cumming explained that the intensity and duration of the fire is controlled by a supervisor who mans the controls of the propane supply. Given the continuous pumping nature of the apparatus, the supervisor will turn off the supply if the trainees fight it properly, simulating a properly combated blaze.

Propane, both liquid and gaseous, is used instead of gasoline, which would be present in a real vehicle fire, due to its more predictable and controllable nature. The propane used in Thursday’s burn was donated by Amerigas.

“There are a lot of dangers with (gasoline),” said Streett. “There’s a lot of unpredictability when you’re using flammable liquids… We would not use any type of petroleum product like that… There are just a lot of dangers and that’s how people have gotten hurt and killed training in the fire service.”

Prior to their acquisition of the Kidde prop, the fire departments would use actual vehicles, which came with their own set of problems, Streett said.

The fuel sources used for those burns were primarily pallets and straw, which were not clean-burning and required a lot of preparation and cooperation from the weather, said Streett. With the new prop, it is just rolled off a trailer, hooked up to the gas and electricity lines and fired up.

“There’s only so many of those evolutions you could replicate in one (actual) car, obviously because of the integrity of the car being compromised with each fire,” said Streett. “… Not to mention the mess that goes along with the cleanup… With this (Kidde prop), it’s just a matter of pressing a button and you can replicate the same fire. There’s a consistency element there as well, because these fires can be replicated pretty consistently from evolution to evolution.”

Several of the jurisdictions that will benefit from the prop were present for the training demonstration, including Mark Dudrow, technician for the Frederick County Fire and Rescue Training Division.

“The most important thing is that this is a new training aide that we have so that we can teach the rookies, when they come in, how to fight an auto fire, because that’s a unique fire to fight,” he said. “It gives us another tool in our toolbox so that we can help them become better firefighters.”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com