/ Articles / Arbor Vitae Fire Department performs mock emergency with simulation trailer

Arbor Vitae Fire Department performs mock emergency with simulation trailer

October 25, 2019 by Heather Holmes


A ceiling collapses on a firefighter. A staircase crumbles under foot. A firefighter has to make a snap decision on whether or not to continue moving through the rubble, or call mayday. What factors go into that decision?

Every day firefighters are hurt or even killed due to unforeseen circumstances in a structure fire. That’s where preemptive training comes in to play.

Monday night, members the Arbor Vitae Fire and Rescue personnel experienced many different hazards during a training exercise in the department’s newly completed simulated house, which was built out of an old semi-trailer donated to the department. 

Mike Sipin, firefighter on the department and trainer, started the build of the simulated structure back in June, with the hopes that many other departments would be able to train in it also. Constructed of actual materials used in average homes, the structure contains wiring, stairs, floors, studs, walls, and an attic. 

Fire personnel were dressed in full gear Monday, including air tanks, and had to crawl their way through the twisted maze of hazards. Sipin and fellow fireman and training captain Carl Fink assisted the trainees through the challenges, asking them questions about their status, and what they were seeing or feeling.

Many times during an actual fire, there is no light to help firefighters see potential hazards that could injure them. The sight of the firefighters is also diminished due to the large breathing apparatus. The trainees had to use their other senses to determine the possible hazards, and how to navigate through them safely.

Upon entering the simulated house, the trainees had hold on to a rope to guide them through the dark course. They were required to climb through a studded wall over a “live wire,” then through an area where the ceiling caves in on them. The trainees were then asked by the trainers whether or not they should call Mayday or just alert their site commander that there was a collapse, and if they could safely navigate out to the hazard.

After escaping the fallen ceiling hazard, next was a staircase that lead up to the attic area. This area was also dangerous because the fire had damaged the structure, and the stairs would potentially fall through to the floor below. The attic area had a low roofline, and the firefighters had to shimmy their way through the attic crawl space, being extra careful as to not go through the ceiling.

Other obstacles included floors that would cave in, and a culvert-type tube to crawled through, which led them to a spider web-like array of electrical wires.  

With this type of training, firefighters will hopefully become more alert to the potential issues that could cause them harm, and give them the experience and confidence to get out of the situations safely.

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