Rookie Firefighters In 'Live' Fire Training - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

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Rookie Firefighters In 'Live' Fire Training

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Waterloo (KWWL) -- We recognize Fire Prevention Week every year for just seven days, but the brave, lifesaving firefighters we so often take for granted, train year-round on behalf of so many Iowans. The firefighters of Iowa train consistently to be ready for any emergency. When the time comes, ‘your' safety is ‘their' top priority.

Recently, four Waterloo Fire Rescue rookies went through a ‘live' fire training exercise. For Rookie James Garrett, it was his first-ever ‘live' fire experience.  KWWL-TV tagged along for this training session, held at the Waterloo Fire rescue training facility, known as the ‘burn barn.' The burn barn is a steel structure, which serves as a real-life fire simulator. The fire is real; the heat is real; the smoke is real. The temperature can be increased to one thousand degrees, though the Waterloo firefighters will rarely train in temperatures that high.

When asked if he had any concerns about going into the burning structure Rookie Garrett commented, "I don't know. I've never been in this kind of heat; a thousand degrees at the ceiling. I'm a pretty tall guy, so I'll have to work hard to stay low. It will be interesting to see how it feels in all of this gear."

The ‘live' fire scenario is a basement fire in a house. That means the rookies have to safely enter the burning building and drag enough fire hose from the upper floor all the way to the basement level and put out the fire.

"It's a safety issue, and this just gives everybody an opportunity to train and for us to control the safety aspect of it," says Waterloo Fire rescue Lt. Ben Petersen, who went inside the burning structure with the four rookies. The Lt. says, "We can control the environment in there, It's a steel building. There's a small potential for collapse. We can control the fires, and it's just a safe method of preparing firefighters for what they'll face, once they get on duty."

Waterloo Firefighter of the Year and Training Officer, Captain Mike Moore says the burn building serves a great purpose. "With new recruits, especially, it gives them an idea of what they'll be up against later in their careers. It's all part of a requirement; a firefighter one requirement and part of the fire academy. In the burn room, itself, we don't want the temperature to be over a thousand degrees. If it does get up over a thousand, we'll knocked it down a little bit with the fire hose. There will be hotter conditions in real fires, but at this point, our idea is not to cook'em, but just give them the experience.

Rookie Garrett is a UNI graduate, who recently served in the U.S. military. He thinks firefighting is right up his alley.  "I'm not the type of guy who can spend eight hours behind a desk. I need a little excitement in my life, and it's challenging. I wanted a career where I would look forward to coming to work everyday, and to get something out of it, and this is it." Rookie Garrett was clearly exhausted when he and rookie K. C. Clark emerged from the burn building. Garrett says, "You get out of there, and you're pretty gassed. You don't even realize how hard you're breathing until you get out and look at your air tank, and you realize you sucked thirty minutes of air down in just ten minutes.

Captain Moore says training in Waterloo Fire rescue is all about teamwork. He adds, "From day one, everything we practice is about teamwork. Nobody ever works by themselves. There's no superman or hotdogs, or cowboys in this game. It's all about teamwork."

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