Pelham Fire Department conducts controlled burn

Pelham Fire Department conducted a controlled burn June 3 near Oak Mountain State Park. (Contributed)

By JESSA PEASE / Staff Writer

PELHAM—Flames engulfed a house off State Park Road June 3, but it was all according to Pelham Fire Department’s plan.

As a part of its training, the department used a donated home to hold a controlled fire near Oak Mountain State Park. According to Deputy Chief Blair Sides, those burns are the best way to prepare firefighters for the real thing.

“(That’s) mainly because it’s the opportunity to have live fire conditions that we can control,” Sides said. “It’s a structure. There are simulators, but you don’t get the training that you would get from a real structure.”

So when the fire department receives a donated house, like the one they used June 3, Sides said they take advantage of the opportunity.

The department prepares the house for use by removing everything that would add fuel to the fire such as carpeting, curtains or beds. Once those objects are removed, training instructors are able to control the fuel load in the structure and make sure the conditions are safe during the exercise.

“It’s a real house fire, but we get to control it,” Sides said. “We control the conditions, but it also lets the firefighters have real fire conditions.”

Not only does this allow responders to extinguish real flames, it also allows them to run drills. Sides said trainees perform search and rescues, performing search patterns to find a hidden “baby” or an entrapped person.

The training instructors even blackout the masks of the firefighters, so they can train with poor or no vision. This forces them to search by feeling instead of sight.

All of Pelham Fire Department’s firefighters are required to have 20 hours of fire training a month, not including medical training.

As of June 9, Sides said the city had acquired three additional structures, through its flood mitigation program, the fire department may be able to use for training. He said the police will likely use it for drill purposes as well, but he hopes to be able to conduct another controlled burn soon.