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Burn Building on a Budget?

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  • Burn Building on a Budget?

    Has anybody ever built a burn building on a limited budget? I am looking for plans, advice, and techniques that will save on money.

    Labor would be volunteer.

    Likely will be purly concrete construction, with a bit of metal work.

    We have an abundance of oil field industry materials to draw from. Heavy gauge pipe, sucker rod (inch thick rods used in wells), etc...

    We are a volunteer department that would like to have live burn training available in our area (nearest training facility is 70 miles away).

    If anybody has any plans, pictures, or advice, please let me know.

    -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
    -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

    -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

    -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.

  • #2
    I have been toying with this idea myself, although I will be the first to admit I have not researched either NFPA or OSHA regs on such. I considered posting my idea here to get input and see what everyone knew of the regs and how feasable it may be, so this is as good a time as any.

    My idea centers upon the use of ocean shipping containers, the 20 and 40 foot models. We have several welders on the department, and some talented fabricators to work on this.

    Basicly, I would like to take 2 40 foot containers, and join them with a 20 foot to make an H. Regular size doorways would be cut where they join, leaving the structural integity ok. Vents would be added at the top, as well as a provision on one or two for a 4x8 section of plywood to serve as a roof for ventilation exercises. Later down the road a 20 foot model could be added on top of one of the 40's and metal stairs added to connect them. These containers are regularly stacked 4-6 high loaded, so one empty with some reenforcemnet would be fine. A window for RIT excercise could be cut out and formed in a few of the containers, and covered with plywood when not in use or for ventilation/forcible entry training.

    The doors can be left as, and more can be added on the sides. You would need to make some provision for water drainage but slits on the side should be fine, and sliding vents could be added along the tops to regulate tempurature. these containers are extremly strong, deigned to holds tons of goods and be stacked 4-6 high when loaded

    I figure wuth us doing the labor ourselves, buying the cheapest containers (too worn for shipping but still fine for us) we could do the whole basic deal for about $10,000-$12,000.

    Waht do you think guys, is this feasable?
    Last edited by radioguy; 09-16-2003, 02:09 PM.


    • #3
      Personally, I would do lots and lots of research before I built a building that I will put FF's in and burn. Thoughts of the amount of safety devices needed alone are running through my head. Search for threads on these forums involving Lairdsville. That was a town that did a burn drill without much (if any) of an idea on what they were doing. Hopefully soon, the guy in charge will be spending more time in jail. Can they be built? Sure, but I would suggest calling some companies that sell/build such buildings and get advice from them. Talk to the people who run the one 70 miles away and contact who built theirs. It makes sense to do it, but don't skimp, do it right.
      "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?


      • #4
        Stop. Before taking another step, invest in a copy of NFPA 1403 and follow it to the T.


        • #5
          Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
          Stop. Before taking another step, invest in a copy of NFPA 1403 and follow it to the T.
          Just found 1403 available for free download here

          This whole container idea has been a kind of back of the mind daydream of mine for a few months, now time to print this and see if it is feasable.


          • #6
            Burn building on a budget? I hope it is a large budget. There is no way to build a safe, compliant, burn building that will last without a significant amount of cash unless you can get a whole bunch of donated cash and or material.
            "We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them in New York City."



            • #7
              Now looking over NFPA 1403, I am somewhat suprised at the lack of standards for burn building construction laid down in the standard. There are plenty of refrences to the burn activities and such, but very little on the actual construction. The strictest thing called for in an annual inspection by an engineer familiar with burn building, removal of thermal barriers to inspect for damage beneath (none in a steel building) and core samples of concrete walls.

              here is the standard for non-gas fired training center buildings.

              Chapter 6 Non–Gas-Fired Training Center Buildings
              6.1 Student Prerequisites.
              6.1.1* Prior to being permitted to participate in live fire training
              evolutions, the student shall have received training to
              meet the job performance requirements for Fire Fighter I in
              NFPA 1001, Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications,
              related to the following subjects:
              (1) Safety
              (2) Fire behavior
              (3) Portable extinguishers
              (4) Personal protective equipment
              (5) Ladders
              (6) Fire hose, appliances, and streams
              (7) Overhaul
              (8) Water supply
              (9) Ventilation
              (10) Forcible entry
              6.1.2* Students participating in a live fire training evolution
              who have received the required minimum basic training from
              other than the authority having jurisdiction shall not be permitted
              to participate in any live fire training evolution without
              presenting prior written evidence of having successfully completed
              the prescribed minimum training to the levels specified
              in 6.1.1.
              6.2 Structures and Facilities.
              6.2.1* Strict safety practices shall be applied to all structures
              selected for live fire training evolutions.
              6.2.2* Training center burn buildings shall be inspected visually
              for damage prior to live fire training evolutions.
     Damage shall be documented.
    * The structural integrity of the building shall be evaluated
              and documented annually by a licensed professional engineer
              with burn building experience and expertise.
    * Part of the burn building evaluation shall include,
              once every five years, the removal and reinstallation of a representative
              area of thermal linings (if any) to inspect the hidden
              conditions behind the linings.
     The engineer shall core solid structural concrete slabs
              and walls that have been exposed to temperatures in excess of
              149°C (300°F) to check for hidden delaminations and to test
              compressive strength once every 10 years for conventional
              (Portland) concrete and every three years for refractory (calcium
              aluminate) concrete.
     Where the burn building damage is severe enough to
              affect the safety of the students, training shall not be permitted.
              6.2.3 All doors, windows and window shutters, roof scuttles
              and automatic ventilators, mechanical equipment, lighting,
              manual or automatic sprinklers, and standpipes necessary for
              the live fire training evolution shall be checked and operated
              prior to any live fire training evolution to ensure they operate
              6.2.4* All safety devices, such as thermometers, oxygen and
              toxic and combustible gas monitors, evacuation alarms, and
              emergency shutdown switches, shall be checked prior to any
              live fire training evolutions to ensure they operate correctly.
              6.2.5 Training center burn buildings shall be left in a safe
              condition upon completion of live fire training evolutions.
              6.2.6 Debris hindering the access or egress of fire fighters
              shall be removed prior to the beginning of the next training
              6.2.7 In preparation for live fire training, an inspection of the
              structure shall be made to determine that the floors, walls,
              stairs, and other structural components are capable of withstanding
              the weight of contents, participants, and accumulated
              6.2.8 Property adjacent to the training site that could be affected
              by the smoke from the live fire training evolution, such
              as railroads, airports or heliports, and nursing homes, hospitals,
              or other similar facilities, shall be identified.
              6.2.9 The persons in charge of the properties described in
              6.2.8 shall be informed of the date and time of the evolution.
              6.2.10* Streets or highways in the vicinity of the training site
              shall be surveyed for potential effects from live fire training
              evolutions, and safeguards shall be taken to eliminate any possible
              hazard to motorists.
              6.2.11 Pedestrian traffic in the vicinity of the training site shall
              be kept clear of the operations area of the live burn by the use
              of fire lines.
              6.2.12 Awareness of weather conditions, wind velocity, and
              wind direction shall be maintained, including a final check for
              possible changes in weather conditions immediately before
              actual ignition.
              6.2.13 The water supply for any individual live fire training
              evolution shall be assessed based on the extent of the evolutions
              to be performed.
     Consideration shall be given to the control and extinguishment
              of the fire and the provision of necessary backup
              lines to protect personnel.
     The minimum water supply and delivery for live fire
              training evolutions shall meet the criteria identified in
              NFPA 1142, Standard on Water Supplies for Suburban and Rural
              Fire Fighting.
     A minimum reserve of additional water in the
              amount of 50 percent of the fire flow demand determined in
              accordance with shall be available to handle exposure
              protection or unforeseen situations.
    * Separate sources shall be utilized for the supply of
              attack lines and backup lines in order to preclude the loss of
              both water supply sources at the same time.
              Exception: A single source shall be sufficient at a training center facility
              where the water system has been engineered to provide adequate
              volume for the evolutions conducted and a backup power source or
              backup pumps, or both, are in place to ensure an uninterrupted supply
              in the event of a power failure or malfunction.
              6.2.14 Areas for the staging, operating, and parking of fire
              apparatus that are used in the live fire training evolution shall
              be designated.
     An area for parking fire apparatus and vehicles that
              are not a part of the evolution shall be designated so as not to
              interfere with fireground operations.
     Consideration shall be given to locating this area in
              order to facilitate prompt response of apparatus in the event
              of an emergency.
     Where required or necessary, parking areas for police
              vehicles or for the press shall be designated.
     A parking area for an ambulance or an emergency
              medical services vehicle shall be designated.
     Consideration shall be given to locating this area to
              facilitate prompt response in the event of a personal injury to
              participants in the evolution.
     Consideration shall be given to the designation and
              layout of ingress/egress routes in order to ensure their availability
              in the event of an emergency.
              6.2.15 Prior to conducting actual live fire training evolutions,
              a preburn briefing session shall be conducted for all participants.
     All facets of each evolution to be conducted shall be
              discussed in the preburn briefing, and assignments shall be
              made for all crews participating in the training session.
     The location of simulated victims shall not be required
              to be disclosed, provided that the possibility of victims
              is discussed during the preburn briefing.
     A preburn plan shall be prepared and shall be utilized
              during the preburn briefing sessions.
     All features of the training areas and structure shall
              be indicated on the preburn plan.
              6.2.16 Prior to conducting any live fire training, all participants
              shall be required to conduct a walk-through of the structure
              in order to have a knowledge of and familiarity with the
              layout of the building and to facilitate any necessary evacuation
              of the building.
              6.2.17 All spectators shall be restricted to an area outside the
              operations area perimeter established by the safety officer.
     Control measures such as ropes, signs, and fire line
              markings shall be posted to indicate the perimeter of the operations
     Visitors who are allowed within the operations area
              perimeter to observe operations shall be escorted at all times.
     Visitors who are allowed within the operations area
              perimeter shall be equipped with and shall wear complete
              protective clothing according to manufacturer’s instructions
              and in accordance with through
              6.2.18 All possible sources of ignition, other than those that
              are under the direct supervision of the person responsible for
              the start of the training fire, shall be removed from the operations
              6.3 Fuel Materials.
              6.3.1 The fuels that are utilized in live fire training evolutions
              shall have known burning characteristics that are as controllable
              as possible.
              6.3.2 Unidentified materials, such as debris found in or
              around the structure that could burn in unanticipated ways,
              react violently, or create environmental or health hazards,
              shall not be permitted to be used.
              6.3.3 Fuel materials shall be used only in the amounts necessary
              to create the desired fire size.
              6.3.4* Pressure-treated wood, rubber, and plastic, and straw or
              hay treated with pesticides or harmful chemicals shall not be
              permitted to be used.
              6.3.5 The fuel load shall be limited to avoid conditions that
              could cause an uncontrolled flashover or backdraft.
              6.3.6* The use of flammable or combustible liquids, as defined
              in NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code, shall
              not be permitted to be used in live fire training evolutions in
              Exception: Limited quantities of combustible liquid with a flash point
              above 38°C (100°F) shall be permitted to be used in a training center
              burn building that has been specifically engineered to accommodate
              this fuel.
              6.3.7* The instructor-in-charge shall assess the selected fire
              room environment for factors that can affect the growth, development,
              and spread of the fire.
              6.3.8* The instructor-in-charge shall document fuel loading
              including all of the following:
              (1) Furnishings
              (2) Wall and floor coverings and ceiling materials
              (3) Type of construction of the structure, including type of
              roof and combustible void spaces
              (4) Dimensions of room
              6.3.9* The training exercise shall be stopped immediately
              when the instructor-in-charge determines through ongoing
              assessment that the combustible nature of the environment
              represents a potential hazard.
              6.3.10 The exercise shall continue only when the actions have
              been taken to reduce the hazard.
              6.4 Safety.
              6.4.1 A safety officer shall be appointed for all live fire training
              6.4.2* The safety officer shall have the authority, regardless of
              rank, to intervene and control any aspect of the operations
              when, in his or her judgment, a potential or actual danger,
              accident, or unsafe condition exists.
              6.4.3 The responsibilities of the safety officer shall include,
              but shall not be limited to, the following:
              (1) Prevention of unsafe acts
              (2) Elimination of unsafe conditions
              6.4.4 The safety officer shall provide for the safety of all persons
              on the scene including students, instructors, visitors, and
              6.4.5 The safety officer shall not be assigned other duties that
              interfere with safety responsibilities.
              6.4.6 The safety officer shall be knowledgeable in the operation
              and location of safety features available within the burn
              building, such as emergency shutoff switches, gas shutoff
              valves, and evacuation alarms.
              6.4.7* The instructor-in-charge of the live fire training evolutions
              shall determine, prior to each specific evolution, the
              number of training attack lines and backup lines that are
     Backup lines shall be provided to ensure protection
              for personnel on training attack lines.
     Each hoseline shall be capable of delivering a minimum
              of 360 L/min (95 gpm).
     The instructor-in-charge shall assign the following
              (1) One instructor to each functional crew, which shall not
              exceed five students
              (2) One instructor to each backup line
              (3) Additional personnel to backup lines to provide mobility
              (4) One additional instructor for each additional functional
              6.4.8* Additional safety personnel, as deemed necessary by
              the safety officer, shall be located strategically within the structure
              to react to any unplanned or threatening situation or
              6.4.9 A method of fireground communications shall be established
              to enable coordination among the incident commander,
              the interior and exterior sectors, the safety officer,
              and external requests for assistance.
              6.4.10* A building evacuation plan shall be established, including
              an evacuation signal to be demonstrated to all participants
              in an interior live fire training evolution.
              6.4.11 Emergency medical services shall be available on site to
              handle injuries.
              6.4.12 Written reports shall be filled out and submitted on all
              injuries and on all medical aid rendered.
              6.4.13 A search of the structure shall be conducted to ensure
              that no unauthorized persons, animals, or objects are in the
              building immediately prior to ignition.
              6.4.14 No person(s) shall play the role of a victim inside the
              6.4.15 Fires shall not be located in any designated exit paths.
              6.4.16 The training session shall be curtailed, postponed, or
              canceled, as necessary, to reduce the risk of injury or illness
              caused by extreme weather conditions.
              6.4.17 Each participant shall be equipped with full protective
              clothing and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).
     All participants shall be inspected by the safety officer
              prior to entry into a live fire training evolution to ensure
              that the protective clothing and SCBA are being worn according
              to manufacturer’s instruction and are in serviceable condition.
     Protective coats, trousers, hoods, footwear, helmets,
              and gloves shall have been manufactured to meet the requirements
              of NFPA 1971, Standard on Protective Ensemble for Structural
              Fire Fighting.
     Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) shall
              have been manufactured to meet the requirements of
              NFPA1981, Standard on Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus
              for the Fire Service.
    * Where station or work uniforms are worn by any
              participant, the station or work uniform shall have been
              manufactured to meet the requirements of NFPA 1975, Standard
              on Station/Work Uniforms for Fire and Emergency Services.
     Personal alarm devices shall have been manufactured
              to meet the requirements of NFPA 1982, Standard on
              Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS).
     All students, instructors, safety personnel, and other
              personnel shall wear all protective clothing and equipment
              specified in this chapter according to manufacturer’s instructions
              whenever they are involved in any evolution or fire suppression
              operation during the live fire training evolution.
    * All students, instructors, safety personnel, and other
              personnel participating in any evolution or operation of fire
              suppression during the live fire training evolution shall
              breathe from an SCBA air supply whenever operating under
              one or more of the following conditions:
              (1) In an atmosphere that is oxygen deficient or contaminated
              by products of combustion, or both
              (2) In an atmosphere that is suspected of being oxygen deficient
              or contaminated by products of combustion, or
              (3) In any atmosphere that can become oxygen deficient or
              contaminated, or both
              (4) Below ground level
              6.4.18 One person who is not a student shall be designated as
              the “ignition officer” to control the materials being burned.
     The ignition officer shall wear full protective clothing,
              including self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), as
              required in through, when performing this
              control function.
     A charged hoseline shall accompany the ignition officer
              when he or she is igniting any fire.
    * The decision to ignite the training fire shall be
              made by the instructor-in-charge in coordination with the
              safety officer.
     The fire shall be ignited by the ignition officer in
              the presence of and under the direct supervision of the
              safety officer.
              6.5 Instructors.
              6.5.1 All instructors shall be qualified to deliver fire fighter
              training according to the authority having jurisdiction.
              6.5.2* The participating student-to-instructor ratio shall not
              be greater than 5 to 1.
              6.5.3 Additional instructors shall be designated when factors
              such as extreme temperatures or large groups are present,
              and classes of long duration are planned.
              6.5.4 The instructor-in-charge shall be responsible for full
              compliance with this standard.
              6.5.5 Prior to the ignition of any fire, instructors shall ensure
              that all protective clothing and equipment specified in this chapter
              are being worn according to manufacturer’s instructions.
              6.5.6 Instructors shall take a head count when entering and
              exiting the building during an actual attack evolution conducted
              in accordance with this standard.
              6.5.7 Instructors shall monitor and supervise all assigned students
              closely during the live fire training evolution.
              6.5.8 The instructor-in-charge shall consider the circumstances
              of each training session and make provisions for the
              rest and rehabilitation of members operating at the scene,
              including medical evaluation and treatment, food and fluid
              replenishment, and relief from climate conditions, in accordance
              with the circumstances of the training session. (See
              Annex D.)
              6.5.9 Where concurrent, multiple, live fire training evolutions
              are being conducted in a specifically designed burn
              building, the identity of the instructor-in-charge shall be clear
              to all participants.
              6.5.10 It shall be the instructor-in-charge’s responsibility to
              coordinate overall burn building fireground activities to ensure
              proper levels of safety.


              • #8
                Fire tactics

                Go there and read.....then read some more. Talk with Batt 18 ( the forums) Paul grimwood in real life. He probably has as much time in containers and most of us do breathing.

                There are plans out there for containers as flashover simulators, as fire attack structures, plus also backdraft simulators (you can't go inside that one!)

                Bottom line is, research, research, research. Do I think there is value in your ideas...yes. But as has been said, make sure you follw the standards and accepted practices to the letter.


                • #9
                  Also, trained instructors and solid procedures are every bit as important as construction.


                  • #10
                    Burn Suilding Alternatives

                    Check out Fire Tactics
                    Last edited by jimibinaz; 09-18-2003, 09:19 PM.


                    • #11
                      Mobile Burn Units

                      stay safe
                      Last edited by jimibinaz; 09-18-2003, 09:06 PM.


                      • #12
                        Be careful of your construction materials if you are going to burn class A fuels. I have heard of brick burn facilities that started out burning pallets and such, and then switched to LP gas because of the expense of replacing deteriorating brick. The bricks in the gas fueled facilities last longer because the temperature does not get as hot (because of the fuel and/or automated controls).

                        I have similar ideas for a local training facility - we should touch base through email. You definitely want to check out the wealth of info on Paul Grimwood's site, firetactics.com.


                        • #13
                          I think you can get a 40 foot unit.

                          Last edited by jimibinaz; 09-18-2003, 09:05 PM.


                          • #14
                            The more I investigate this, the more it seems feasable. The biggest problem for me at least is finding a suitable location, one that has enough flat area for parking and training (we are in the mountains), is available for use, and is far enough from homes and business locatiosn that we will not bother them with smoke.

                            We have soem very talented welders, plumbers, and heavy equipment owenr/operaters on our deprtment, so we will be able to do a lot of the work ourselves.

                            Another aspect I am going to have to do a great deal of research into is water runoff. I am sure there are a large number of state and federal regulations regarding this, I know we are exempted on real fire scenes but I doubt a training facility will get the same exemptions. the required water drainage system my cost more than anything else......

                            We talked about the idea of this the other night, and we think it could be a winning idea. We have a severe lack of decent training facilities in the area, and many departments would be able to take advantage of this facility. I would like to see it made available to everyone, for those departments that can afford to pay on a cost per man hour basis, and for thsoe that are on a tighter budget instead of paying a trade for labor assisting with upkeep or helping provide us with materials for training such as old vehicles, pallets, etc. that way the facility would be available for all and it would help us offset the cost and time needed to keep it up.


                            • #15
                              Water runoff will be a major obstacle...most new training facilities I have scene have water treatment plants and restore the water to a certain standard....Check you state and fed pollution control.


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