The opportunity to destroy a home in order to train firefighters doesn’t come around often. As a result, firefighters in the Verde Valley get a little excited when someone is kind enough to donate their property to the greater good.
On Thursday, Aug. 31, over a dozen crew members of Copper Canyon Fire and Medical Authority ignited a property at 25 Montezuma Castle Highway in Camp Verde.
The home, donated by Mike and Jenii O’Callaghan, had been used for the last month to train active duty firefighters. Crews of three or four firefighters practiced cutting holes for ventilation and doorways, creating positive pressure by installing fans to push smoke out of the building, operating search and rescue and laying hose lines.
According to CCFMA Fire Chief Terry Keller, the goal was not only to train firefighters but also to demolish the building, which will be developed into a duplex residence.
“We’ve been training on this house for a while,” Keller said prior to ignition of the building. “It’s Swiss cheese at this point .... We’ve done basically everything that could be done to this building. It’s rare to get them, so we do everything we can.
“It’s going to get hot,” Keller deadpanned. “That’s my big concern.”
Just after 9:30 a.m. CCFMO firefighters went to work, suppressing the blaze in order to keep the heat down, all the while keeping aware to prevent another nearby ignition from occurring due to other objects’ close proximity to the burning structure.
The following week, Sept. 6, over 100 crew members from Verde Valley Fire District, Cottonwood Fire and Medical Authority, Jerome Fire Department, Sedona Fire District, Yavapai College fire science program cadets, the Cottonwood Public Safety Communication Center and CCFMA conducted another rare live burn under the supervision of VVFD Training Captain Dustin Chambliss.
VVFD Chief Nazih Hazime agreed with Keller’s appraisal of the process, saying, “This type of training opportunity does not come around very often. However, when the opportunity arises we take advantage of it to the extreme.”
Hazime said live-burn training is “very realistic ... as close to the real thing as possible.”
VVFD and other fire emergency responders use the training as a tool to build firefighters’ self-confidence and increase proficiency in required skills.
“This training [involved] a home donated to the fire district for specific training evolutions,” Hazime said. “Firefighters have conducted firefighter ‘save your own’ drills using props to simulate entanglement, confined space entrapments and floor collapse. In addition, we [will do] night search and rescue operations. Our last training evolution will consist of reading smoke and fire travel.”
According to Hazime, live-burn training is in line with the National Fallen Firefighters Association theme of Everyone Goes Home, which promotes prevention of firefighter deaths and injuries.