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American Fork burns house for training

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  • American Fork burns house for training

    American Fork firefighters use burning building for training

    Captain Aaron Brems, left, with the American Fork City Fire Department, watches a controlled burn as he and other members of the department monitor a positive-pressure ventilation technique during training in American Fork

    The American Fork Fire Department uses an on-site structure to train their firefighters.
    .AMERICAN FORK -- There's a new house in American Fork that has burned down not once, but nearly two dozen times, most recently this evening. It's a practice house for the fire department, and it sits in the parking lot south of the American Fork Fire Department at 96 N. Center St.

    Built about three weeks ago, it has been burned many times for the last week and a half.

    "We've invited the neighboring training departments to train with it whenever they want," said Capt. Doug Bateman. "We've done about 20 different burns in it."

    The structure is set up to simulate a three-bedroom home. There are no floors, window coverings or furniture, yet the experience is relatively realistic for the fire fighters.

    "To an extent, we get to see a lot of fire behavior and a lot of different tactical observations," Bateman said. "It's nice to see the fire and see how our tactics measure up and where we can improve. We get to do actual live training."

    Each burn is a somewhat different experience by the way they plan it.

    "It depends on how long you let it burn," Bateman said. "You can simulate breaking a window or opening a door, getting heat and smoke evacuated through different areas. We try to do different things to learn from different experiences we come in contact with."

    The firefighters actually built the house.

    "We had six plus the chief," Bateman said. "We framed it up, then had a company come in and do the drywall." That drywall is important, he explained, because fire moves differently depending on how the drywall is installed.

    Plans for the building are available to other fire departments through www.positivepressureattack.com, but were more readily available to American Fork.

    "Our chief (Kriss Garcia) is an expert in positive pressure attack," Bateman said. "He designed this building. We are fortunate to have him become our chief. He's written a book on this particular tactic. It's been a good learning experience."

    That positive pressure attack is a relatively new method of combating fires, and is based on modern construction techniques and materials.

    "The workplace of firefighters has been undergoing a dramatic transformation, the book states. "Slowly, steadily over decades the materials used to build and furnish homes, commercial buildings, warehouses, high-rises and just about everything else have been changing. More and more mass has been shaved from structural materials. Plastics have replaced natural materials for furniture and decorating. As a result, buildings do not withstand fire for long, and fires burn far hotter and faster than in the past, producing far more deadly gases."

    From the book's introduction:

    "The faster that heat and products of combustion can be removed from a burning building interior, the better for everyone. Ideally, ventilation started early and coordinated with fire attack provides the ultimate benefit for firefighters searching for victims and attacking the fire. It also helps unprotected victims survive until rescuers can find them. This is a difficult ideal to accomplish, so most firefighters have learned to work as well as we can in limited visibility until the interior eventually clears.

    "PPA works in new buildings and old, can be applied to a wide variety of situations, and does not require special staffing or expensive equipment."

    Garcia and co-author Reinhard Kauffmann have trained more than 10,000 firefighters from more than 400 departments in the United States, Great Britain and Canada, and even a group of firefighters from Sapporo, Japan, who traveled to Salt Lake City.

    Fore the practice burn, Bateman estimated the temperature at the ceilings is around 500-600 degrees Fahrenheit, but Garcia said they sometimes can rise to 1300 degrees.

    The building will be used for a while longer, then put on hold.

    "We're trying to get about 50-60 live burns out of it," Bateman said. "It has four different rooms. Then we'll strip down the Sheetrock and tear apart the framework. We will save the framework and put new Sheetrock in when we use it again."

    He explained that material is used not only for construction, but to help contain fires.

    "They use the drywall for protection," he said. "It does a good job at what it was intended to do."
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