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Emergency Services training focuses on ‘live burn’

By Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle | Dec 11, 2020

Firefighter students gear up and wait their turn to enter the burn trailer, as part of their live burn portion of a Firefighter 1 class through the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency. Toni Milbourne

RANSON — While many in our community were enjoying a quiet Saturday afternoon, perhaps getting the family Christmas tree or watching a favorite holiday classic, a group of dedicated first responders were participating in a live burn training exercise at the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency.

“Today’s live burn is a culmination of 155 hours of a Firefighter 1 class,” said Craig Horn, education and compliance officer for JCESA. “The students have learned their skills and taken a written exam.”

The live burn portion of their training consisted of real-life fire situation in a controlled environment where students were able to assess the situation, evaluate the smoke conditions and feel the actual heat of a fire condition.

At Saturday’s training, 13 students suited up in their fire gear, including their Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus. The students, 12 of which were female, were from all over the county and from neighboring areas as well.

“It is very unusual to have so many females in a class,” Horn said, indicating Jefferson County opened its class to other counties, so students from Berkeley County and Hardy County could participate. The students began their work in September, and upon completion of Saturday’s portion of hands-on training, will be ready to move to Firefighter 2 training, an additional 40-hour training expanding upon what they already learned. Additional training will include HazMat Operations CPR and First Aid.

Kaila Napier and Makenzie Woodward, both employees of JCESA, were suited up and ready to literally step into the fire.

“We have to be both fire and EMT certified for our job here,” Napier said.

According to Horn, JCESA provides staffing assistance to the county’s seven volunteer stations.

“One of the requirements to work for JCESA is to either have Fire 1, Fire 2 prior to hire or complete that training within a year,” Horn said. “Many of the students take the training as a local volunteer, with aspirations of either working for JCESA or another emergency agency.”

Highlights of the training include everything from how to work a fire extinguisher to auto extrication to removing someone from an accident scene. The live burn training is normally a part of the Fire 1 class, although Horn indicated there have been occasions where it has been held as a free-standing class.

During the training, which makes use of a specific burn trailer, a piece of equipment valued at over $500,000, the students enter through one of its many doors and face actual live fire and smoke. They must evaluate and work to extinguish the fire safely.

The class helps the students build trust in their training and their gear, including the breathing apparatus and personal protective wear. Firefighters are issued tailored gear individually sized for them, to help eliminate safety hazards.

When speaking to the importance of the training, Horn explained that 85 percent of the 911 calls in Jefferson County are for Emergency Medical Services. When the JCESA was developed in the county, their main goal was to provide EMS assistance to the volunteer companies.

“Several years ago, we started to see trends in the need for qualified firefighter staffing to help and supplement the volunteer stations,” Horn said.

To that end, all paid staff at JCESA must be certified on both the fire and EMS side.

“We try to prepare our staff the best we can, for whatever the next call that comes in,” Horn said. “We are unique in this area of the state; very view agencies do both fire and EMS service.”