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Minnesota National Guard
Housefire is good training for Camp Ripley, Pierz, Randall firefighters

PIERZ, Minn " On a cool Saturday morning near Pierz, Minn smoke filled the air, along with the sounds of cracking, burning wood and intense heat, while commands were bellowed out from one firefighter to another Hearts raced as firefighters entered the burning building Their initial cool, calm demeanor turned into wide-eyed attention and fast paced breathing "We've got fire here" and "water on for one second then cut it off" were common phrases given by the instructors to the new firefighters but this was not an emergency, this was a training exercise

The training was conducted June 25, 2011 by three combined fire departments

"We are conducting a joint training exercise with the Pierz and Randall Fire Departments," said Patrick J Boone, Camp Ripley fire chief

Nathan Gruber made the exercise possible through the donation of the house

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Home owner Nathan Gruber made the exercise possible through the donation of the house

"Being business owner, I know the value of training and I wanted to help them out," said Gruber "The house had been vacant for about six years and it was beyond repair It was the family farm so I had to be respectful to my family, but when they heard what was going to be done, they were ok with it"

"This exercise gave us an opportunity to work with other departments and by doing this, if we ever had to work on a actual fire together, it would not be the first time," said Boone "It's a great benefit for training all three departments"

This is also an opportunity for students, who are currently going through the Firefighter One class, which is being held at Camp Ripley, through the 175th Regiment (Regional Training Institute), said Boone

"This gives us the opportunity to get those new firefighters into a live fire setting," said Boone "It also gives them a chance to practice what to look for, and those do's and don'ts, and then put the fire out"

The training was set-up through Northland Community and Technical College, Thief River Falls, Minn, said Christopher M Hofmann, assistant fire chief and lead instructor for the training

"We teach and tell them as much as we can about what to expect, but we never know how they are going to react," said Brian Peters, instructor

The training is done in two phases, which are called level one burns and level two burns The level one burns are started in front of the students This allows them to see how the fire behaves, how it grows and looks for fuel sources and then how the building reacts The students are also able to see how things such as thermal layering works and how the room will fill with smoke and how visibility in the room diminishes The students also become familiar with the Self Contained Breathing Apparatus and gain confidence in the rest of their equipment

The level two burns are started in multiple rooms, allowed to grow and then the students enter the structure, said Hofmann The team of four firefighters, along with the instructor, then has to find the fires in the smoke-filled house, while communicating with the rest of the team what they are seeing, hearing and feeling

"By conducting this training, the students are able to learn how their equipment will work and they learn things like air management and water management," said Boone "By putting them in these situations in a training environment they are better prepared to go into a real fire emergency By giving them this hose time they learn about structural integrity and how water weighs on the building"

In addition to the full-time firefighters that work at Camp Ripley, members of the fire section attached to the Training Support Unit were able to participate in the training exercise

"It's a pleasure to work with the other departments, because you get to see their techniques," said Spc Andre LeBlanc "This real life stuff, it's in your face, it's physical, it's top notch training"

For some of the firefighters, this was a chance to refresh some of their skills

"I've been in many fires, I've been on the fire department for three years, but it's still nice to get back in there and do it again," said Jason Boser, Pierz Fire Department "It's something that you don't get into too much and you forget, then all of a sudden you're in it like today, so it's a nice experience"

At the end of the training, the house was burned to the ground, in accordance with the homeowner's wishes

Story and photos by 1st Lt Kenneth R Toole

Camp Ripley Public Affairs June 25, 2011

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