More than 100 firefighters from across the state gathered in Centre on Saturday to receive Modern Fire Behavior and Tactics Training.
“As building construction changes so must the techniques used to suppress fires within those buildings,” said McCord’s Fire Department Chief Rich Lindsey, who coordinated the event. Chief Lindsey went on to explain that the building and construction industry’s demand has been to construct buildings lighter, faster, and cheaper. They have met that demand by constructing products, such as trusses and beams, out of composite wood instead of dimensional lumber.
This type of construction can lead to structural instability much more rapidly in fire conditions than traditional construction. Similar changes have been made in the home furnishings industry with the use of foam and other petroleum-based synthetics as opposed to natural fibers such as cotton. According to research, these modern types of furnishings will cause a single room to flashover six to seven times faster than a traditionally furnished room.
Chief Lindsey said, “It is imperative that firefighters receive training on current risks and issues associated with their jobs to prevent firefighter injuries and fatalities and to prepare us to make quick and effective rescues in modern fires.”
The class was taught by Brian Kazmierzak, who is the Chief of Training for the Penn Township Fire Department in Mishawaka, Indiana, and has received numerous state, national, and international awards for fire service instruction. Much of the class was based on a recent study conducted by Underwriters Laboratories that highlighted a steady change in the residential fire environment over the past several decades.
These changes include larger homes, open home geometries, increased fuel loads, and new construction materials resulting in faster fire propagation, shorter time to flashover, rapid changes in fire dynamics, shorter escape times, and shorter time to collapse.
The class covered topics such as modern building construction, fire behavior, extinguishing techniques, civilian and firefighter rescues, and salvage operations. Another topic of great importance was that of cancer prevention. Cancer is now the number one killer of firefighters with deaths totaling more than 600 active and retired firefighters annually.
The class was sponsored by the Cherokee County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments and the Alabama Fire College. “I am thrilled that the fire association has been able to bring this much needed training to Cherokee County,” said Spring Garden Fire Chief and Fire Association President Butch Jacobs. Chief Lindsey said, “The need for this training was highlighted by the overwhelming statewide participation.”
Some students reported traveling nearly 200 miles to participate in the class. Jacobs and Lindsey expressed their sincere gratitude to the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce and Gadsden State Cherokee for allowing them to use the Gadsden State Cherokee Arena for the training; to the Cherokee County Career and Technology Center Carpentry Class, Sand Rock School, and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office for assisting with props and facilities set-up; and to NAFECO and Sharp Communication for providing meals and refreshments to all class participants.