Area fire departments gathered at a house just north of the Georgia border off Highway 28 on Carl Chastain Road to conduct live burn training exercises last month.
Firefighters had the opportunity to hone a variety of skills including forcible entry, ventilation, search techniques, and how fires spread said Highlands Fire & Rescue Chief Ryan Gearhart.
Pictured below is a glimpse of a recent live-burn firefighter training exercise:
“We can set up a fire, knock it down, set up another, knock it down; and we work on different things each time,” said Gearhart. “It helps the more experienced firefighters stay sharp, and they can show the rookies about atmospheric changes, thermal layers, and teach them the importance of staying low in a controlled environment.”
Gearhart said after all exercises are completed in live burn training, the structure is fully set ablaze and is burned to the ground.
Firefighters from HFR, Satolah Volunteer Fire Department, Cashiers Glenville Volunteer Fire Department, and Sky Valley-Scaly Mountain Volunteer Fire Department participated in the exercise.
Savannah Shaheen Breedlove, 18, lives in Highlands and graduated from Highlands School in May 2021. She has been a Firefighter in Training for 4 months at the Satolah VFD and was eager to participate in Saturday’s training.
“Doing live fire exercises teaches you a lot,” said Breedlove. “It gives you a feel of what a real fire is like and teaches you things you need to know when going into real emergencies,”
She added that she volunteers at Satolah VFD because she wants to help people and thought it would be fun.
“As I’m going through training, I am learning fire behavior and how to work the fire nozzle and also how to put on an air pack,” said Breedlove. “The gear is heavy, but going in is exciting.”
Gearhart said the opportunities for live burn training depends on the availability of houses that need to be demolished. In the case of Saturday’s exercise, it was the third weekend in a row area fire departments were able to conduct live-burn training.
Sky Valley-Scaly Mountain VFD recently hosted two similar events the previous two weekends.
The house used for live-burn training caught fire several months ago and was damaged to the point beyond repair and needed to be demolished. The homeowner contacted HFR and offered it up as training for firefighters and Gearhart happily accepted.
“The homeowner contacted us and asked if we wanted to train in it,” said Gearhart. “You never know when you’re going to get chances like this so we take them when we can.”
Pictured at the top of the article firefighters let a fire go unchecked in the house’s basement to get a sense of atmospheric changes and teach the less experienced how a fire spreads and the importance of staying low in the thick smoke.