By Jacob Byk
Hutchinson News – October 5, 2015
The Hutchinson Fire Department last week practiced its first night burn drills, which despite the commonality of night fires in the real world, are seemingly rare in training.
“If you hear a may-day, it’s the real deal. We’re not practicing any may-days tonight,” said Hutchinson Fire Training Captain Jesse Martin as the men gathered around in a tight circle.
In the back of the Hutchinson Fire Department Command and Training Center on E. 4th Ave, is a medium-sized building that resembles a box-like apartment complex. For the past two weeks, fires have been lit and controlled in this building, giving Hutchinson and South Hutchinson fire department employees the training they need.
Real life obstacles were constructed to simulate the many night calls to which firefighters are called. The firefighters had to move fast and in teams with separate tasks: While one group breached the second floor window of the structure to release built-up smoke and look for trapped civilians, the fire attack team went in via the first floor and searched out the “burn room.”
Smoke billowed from the “burn room,” where aside from a few unfortunate ovens, a metal rack was stoked with burning wood and hay filling the room with thick smoke. The firefighters also had to practice self control because unlike real structure fires, they were not allowed to blast the flames with the hose. If they did that, the fire would go out and it would take thirty minutes between each person to re-stoke the fire.
These night training sessions are important to firefighters because they make things more realistic. Many steps are added when an event occurs at night, such as lighting up a scene, that require firefighters to add precious seconds to their routines of saving buildings, and lives.
“With the majority of our structure fires occurring after dark it is important to practice these skill sets,” Hanen says. “We will most likely continue [practicing at night] into the future.”
Over the course of two weeks, approximately 90 firefighters from two departments blasted the blaze in the burn room.
“We think it went really well,” said Hutchinson Fire Department Deputy Chief Doug Hanen. “It incorporated some other skill sets that are not needed for daylight hours but must be utilized in the night time.”
Additionally, Oct. 4-10 marks 2015 Fire Prevention Week, with the message “Hear the beep, when you sleep.”
The campaign is informing the public to install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level in homes, including the basement.
Three out of five home fire deaths in 2007-2011 were caused by fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The organization also states that half of home fire deaths result from fires reported at night, between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., when most people are asleep.
With the temperatures starting to dip in the low 50s, the organization stresses the importance of the dangers of ill-advised usage of space heaters.
Portable or fixed space heaters, including wood stoves, caused 33 percent of home heating fires and 81 percent of home heating deaths.