Nothing trains a firefighter better for an actual fire than a real blaze.
However, getting as much practice as possible can help firefighters when they go out and risk their lives.
On June 13, the Jacksonville City Fire Department conducted a fire exercise for its members to get practice fighting fires.
Getting more practice has been a frequent occurrence since the city in recent months finished its new fire training building along Marshall Road. The building is located on the same complex where the city currently is constructing a new city safety/emergency communications center.
“This training center is helping us tremendously,” Thomas Baldridge department engineer, said.
The department currently is using the facility to train each of its three firefighting shifts two classes in learning fire behavior and attack techniques, he said. The final shift for training in fire attack will take place in a session tentatively slated for June 24.
Before each exercise, city firefighters, who also are called students during the exercises, are given a specific scenario before a blaze is set inside the training facility.
“Experience is a great teacher, but we try to prepare them as best we can,” Baldridge said.
The training facility also helps firefighters get used to working with various types of equipment, such as the thermal imaging camera. TICs are helpful when firefighters are trying to find someone trapped inside a burning structure.
Prior to the opening of the training center, the city department used to send its firefighters to other facilities to get firefighting experience. One such place included the Fire Department Instructors Conference in Indianapolis, Ind.
Now Jacksonville’s all full-time fire department can get its training in town, according to Baldridge.
Other departments are getting some of their own training at Jacksonville’s facility, including Cabot and the National Guard’s 61st Civil Support Team.
The city police department also has used the training center for various exercises.
“The center helps us get experience in handling may structural or business fires,” he said.
The city’s effort to get the training facility opened started in 2000 and experienced several roadblocks. City officials were able to pay for it after city voters passed a sales tax for its construction and setup, Baldridge said.