For the first time on school grounds, high school students were able to experience battling a controlled fire last week.
Twelve students suited up in full firefighter gear April 30 for their second round of combating a simulated house blaze in what’s called the mobile burn trailer, which has two stories and resembles the interior of a home on the inside.
“It’s a great way for them to get their feet wet,” said Jason Williams, battalion chief with Hanover Fire-EMS.
This experience helps the young firefighters enrolled in Hanover Fire-EMS’ high school fire academy at Hanover High School’s specialty center, which has been established in the county for about five years.
Last Wednesday was the first time that students could put hours toward their training and still be on campus, which eliminates extra night hours that individuals would have to use to reach the required 40 hours of “burn time,” or training in the field battling fires, said Jason Burrow, firefighter and full-time instructor.
“[The mobile burn trailer is] where all the students are gonna spend an eight-hour day getting their hands-on, live-fire training and not have to work four additional nights, which may have been a burden to them in addition to their regular academic schedule,” Burrow said.
During last week’s exercise, students received a call over the radio for a residential fire and were dispatched. Organized into fire companies, they practiced finding and saving a dummy made of old fire hoses while also combating a blaze. In the trailer, the young firefighters are welcomed with theatrical smoke and must navigate through the exercise.
While in the mobile burn trailer, students’ actions are recorded on cameras so that instructors can review how they did in the exercise and give them advice on what can be improved.
After two days of training in the mobile burn trailer, which was borrowed from the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, the students will finish the rest of their hours at the Hanover Fire-EMS training center.
At the end of the year-long program, students will have accumulated more than 300 total hours of learning and training making them eligible for certification just like one of Hanover Fire-EMS’ volunteer firefighters. Students go to fire academy school every other day and sometimes work on nights and weekends toward their certification.
“The benefit to that is they come out already marketable,” Burrow said.
After completing the fire academy program, student firefighters often have the opportunity to join the county’s staff because they often hire people within the system who have undergone the Hanover Fire-EMS training and fire academy.
Adam Trice, a junior at Lee-Davis High School, is considering volunteering as a firefighter in the county until he goes off to college, because of how much he has enjoyed the program.
“I like it and it’s more hands on than all my other classes,” Trice said.
Some students like Trice said that the in field training experience was beneficial and gave them an opportunity to physically practice everything they’ve learned throughout the year.
“We’ve learned about it all year and this was the first time it was hands-on,” he said.
Another student, Gabriel Hawkins, a junior at Atlee High School, did not initially consider being a firefighter at all until one of his friends started serving as a firefighter in the Air Force. Hawkins said his friend inspired him to enroll in the program and ultimately want to choose that career path.
“I want to follow in his footsteps,” he said.
Hawkins said the “burn training” has been a fun experience for him and thinks it’ll prepare him and his peers for future situations they may encounter.
“If there’s ever a real fire that happens, we’ll know what to do and we won’t freak out,” he said. “I think we’ll be more prepared mentally and physically.”