Firefighters face real fires to practice skills - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Firefighters face real fires to practice skills

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More than 700 firefighters from across Iowa went to Kirkwood Community College this weekend. A lot of them are volunteers and they've never faced a big fire before. This weekend was a chance for them to train before they have to face the real thing.

Jared Burkle and Caleb Shea signed up as volunteers for the Elkader Fire Department a year and a half ago.

"The people we have on the fire department are all getting up there in age," said Shea. "There's not a lot of young people around. It's just something to do to be a part of the community."

The two have never had to put out a big fire inside a building.

"Fires aren't very common," said Burkle. "We've had grass fires, no building/structure fires.

They know that one day they will likely need to put out a burning building. To get some practice, they went to the 27th annual Central Iowa Training Association (CITA) Kirkwood Fire School.

"Firefighters these days are doing a lot of different things," said John Zlabek, CITA Chairman.  "For us to be able to know how to do all of these things and be good at it so that we can properly serve our communities, then we need to get the training for it."

The training covered several aspects of the job, including structure fires, rescues, and even how to put out dangerous fires with a fire extinguisher.

"Occasionally you're going to situations where the firefighter comes in, the fire's not so big that we require the big hoses but it's still large enough that an ordinary person should not attack it with a fire extinguisher because of the danger," said Zlabek.

The people putting on the training say skills change every day so it's just as important for experienced firefighters to keep up their training as it is for newer guys like Burkle and Shea to practice before they face a big fire.

"When the time comes and we need to use these skills we'll actually have them," said Shea.

There's a lot more to being a firefighter than just fighting fires, so the training also included skills like vehicle extrication and grain bin rescues.

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