The room was pitch black and filled with smoke. Firefighters couldn’t see their own gloves in front of their faces, so they drop to their hands and knees and relied on their other heightened senses and their years of training to search for survivors.
They crawled along the periphery of the room, balancing 80 pounds of gear on their backs, reaching into the darkness feeling for anyone still trapped inside. Other firefighters pulled hoses into the burning building and attacked the fire.
Four survivors were pulled from the building and firefighters immediately pivoted to lifesaving first aid and CPR - all under the watchful eye of their command staff.
This spring Roseville firefighters tested their firefighting and rescue skills in more real-world conditions at live burn training. Annual live burn training is a requirement for firefighter licensure. It’s also an important test of the department’s readiness. The department conducted four fast-paced live fire scenarios, called evolutions, during the half day of training, holding debriefings between each round.
“One of our main goals is to keep this training as real as possible,” said Assistant Fire Chief Neil Sjostrom. “Our firefighters are doing everything that they would do at a house fire. They get dispatched to the call. They will do a radio size-up and the crews will deploy based on whatever their company officer tells them to do – pulling hose, doing search and rescue, rescuing victims out of the buildings, and they will be doing their fire attack.”
The training occurred at the East Metro Public Safety Training Center in Maplewood, which has been specially designed for live burns. Wooden pallets, large pieces of cardboard and other debris were placed in the multi-story building and ignited, creating the heat and smoke that firefighters encounter in real-world situations. Weighted mannequins were also placed in the building and had to be found and rescued before the evolution was concluded. The main entrance of the building was sealed shut requiring firefighters to force entry.
All the while, command staff were inside and outside the building observing and participating.
“It affords me an opportunity to be inside with a camera. I can record how they are doing their work. You wouldn’t get that footage inside of an actual incident,” Sjostrom said.
Roseville Fire invited neighboring Maplewood and Lake Johanna fire departments to join the training. Mutual aid agreements mean these departments often work together on larger incidents. Middle and high school-aged students, the Roseville Fire Explorers, interested in a career in firefighting were on scene observing and testing out their skills including carrying hose and practicing with ladders, hydrants and other equipment.
Roseville Fire Chief David Brosnahan also suited up for two evolutions of training when not in the incident command vehicle.
”Live fire training is still our absolute best opportunity for quality training and to test our department’s readiness and response. It is a lot of hard work to execute the training we strive to do, and we truly get out of it what we put into it. And that is a better prepared fire department.”
The Roseville Fire Department employs 26 full-time firefighters and 6 part-time firefighters who respond to more than 6,500 calls each year including fire and rescue calls, medical first responder calls and water rescues.