Numerous fire agencies held a training burn at a house on North Main Avenue in Tillamook at the end of November. Firefighters took turns working the burning home all morning and afternoon, drawing a crowd of bystanders to the scene.

Tillamook Fire led the training exercise and had 30 personnel at the fire. Another dozen firefighters from the departments of Netarts-Oceanside, Nehalem, Garibaldi, and Nestucca participated in the burn.

The focus of the training was studying fire behavior and fire control, allowing a combination of new and seasoned firefighters working the same scene to maximize the learning potential. Crews get a chance to watch the fire build and spread firsthand in a totally controlled environment, then put it out several times before totally burning down the house.

The process starts with lighting small fires one room at a time, bringing in an attack line and a backup line, each with an instructor, to practice suppressing the flames. Pyrotechnicians also have a water line just in case. Communication and teamwork are major components for working inside and outside the house.

Tillamook Fire Department Training Officer Alan Christensen said the “burn and learn” exercise went well by all accounts. He said both experienced and new personnel had their chances to learn. Christensen said joint training sessions such as this one serve to promote interagency operability, which is key because standing mutual aid agreements mean working with nearby agencies frequently.

“The only way we can train people to be able to show up at a random house in the middle of the night, kick the door in where there’s fire and smoke from ceiling to floor, the only way you’re going to be efficient at dealing with that issue is practicing in the same scenario,” Christensen said.

Christensen noted that one factor that you can’t know until you’re there is how the heat will treat you. Just as with pain tolerance, everybody feels heat differently. Dealing with a tight space isn’t for everyone either, and there is the danger of not being able to see or hear much once the fire builds and the air packs are in use. The best way to prevent panic is training.

Fire Chief Chris Beswick, Nehalem Bay Fire Rescue, said his crew had the opportunity to make several interior attacks as well as getting a chance to observe fire behavior under realistic conditions.

“These training burns are invaluable because they allow us to train in a more controlled and preplanned environment, yet still be realistic,” Beswick said. “We are able to fight fire aggressively, or slow down and treat it as a learning environment, based on the needs of the firefighters and their skill levels.”

Fire officials thanked Dam Vo for donating the house that was burned for the training exercise. They also thanked Aufdermauer Trucking/Excavation, Dutch Bros., Debbie D’s Jerky & Sausage, Attis Trading, Tillamook People’s Utility District, City of Tillamook, and Teninty & Son, Inc.

If you have a structure you’re interested in donating for training, please contact Tillamook Fire Department.

Video footage provided by Brandon Abbott

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