Susanville Fire Department and Susan River Fire Protection District firefighters take part in a live fire training Tuesday, Nov. 24. Photo by Makenzie Davis

Firefighters get hands-on live fire training

Smoke and flames poured from the vents in the live fire box, and sparks scattered in the night sky as local firefighters spent an evening getting hands-on experience.

With full turnouts on, self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA) ready to go and the heat from the burn box increasing, firefighters from the Susanville Fire Department and the Susan River Fire Protection District received some live fire training last week.

                  The Susanville Fire Department has some kind of training about once a week, but on the cold Tuesday evening of Nov. 24, firefighters from SFD and the Susan River Fire Protection District donned their weighty equipment and got to work. 

                  According to Susanville Fire Chief James Moore, the firefighters are supposed to get about 22 hours of training each month, through a mix of both online and in-person activities, although COVID has been making it difficult. Tuesday’s training, though, was a bit more involved with a live fire in the burn box located just beside the Main Street fire hall.

                  “There’s going to be a lot of moving parts here tonight,” Susanville Fire Department Captain Robert Brown said to those participating in the training prior to its start.

                  He explained to them they would have the opportunity to get into the burn box and watch fire behavior.

                  “We are trying to get you exposed not just to the fire, but the different stages of the fire,” Brown told the firefighters, some of which were already seasoned, some new.

                  The box, which was fed fuel on the front end, continuously burned during the fire training. The goal was for it to ultimately reach temperatures up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, and for crews to experience rolling smoke, ventilation and the inversion layer.

                  Moreover, training participants practiced aiming the fire hose at the training blaze.

                  Susanville Fire Assistant Chief Marc Murphy told the firefighters to pay close attention and notice how little water some fires actually need to be extinguished.

                  “See what the fire is doing, learn what it’s doing,” Murphy said before the teams took turns in the live fire exercise. “Notice how little water it takes.”

                  During the training night, crews also received training in forceful entry and cutting metal bars with a saw.

                   Overall, the evening was packed with training, some temperamental fire behavior and bacon potato soup, prepared for the crews by administrative assistant Rebecca Sanchez.