Members of the West Grove Fire Company undergo constant training to ensure they are ready to address any situation that comes their way. From Hazmat and Vehicle Rescue Technician training, to Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) certifications and ongoing continuing education, to interior structural firefighter training, the company logs thousands of hours of training per year.
On November 16, the members underwent several hours of live fire training in Chester County’s flashover training simulator. The training took place at the Chester County Public Safety Training Center, located near Coatesville. The Center is a very modern training campus, providing firefighters, EMS, and police realistic and live-fire training simulations.
A flashover is a transitional phase in the life of a fire, happening after the fire has burned for some time, when all of the contents, smoke and gases of a room auto ignite almost instantaneously. The temperature in the room will increase rapidly to 1,200 degrees fahrenheit, or more. The heat produced by a flashover is not survivable for more than a few seconds, even for a firefighter wearing all of his or her turnout gear and breathing equipment.
The flashover simulator provides the ability to show firefighters the growth of a fire from the beginning to that flashover stage, so they can recognize the warning signs of flashover and take immediate actions to stop it from happening. The enclosed metal trailer allows for a fire to be set, and firefighters can then witness the banking down of smoke, the increasing temperatures, and eventually witness first hand how superheated gases start to burn --all precursors to flashover. The simulator also provides excellent opportunities for firefighters to witness smoke behavior, helping them to recognize the signs of danger inside and outside burning structures.
During the training, groups of eight WGFC firefighters enter the enclosed space with complete turnout gear and breathing equipment. Temperatures quickly rise into the hundreds of degrees, with temperatures above their heads rising so much higher that the firefighters don protective covers for their helmets to minimize heat damage during the simulation. Actually, the term "simulator" is not the best terminology -- while the structure does help simulate the conditions for flashover, this is hardly a simulator like a video game or less than real conditions. This is live fire and smoke, with significant heat and low visibility conditions, and ideal for providing actual live fire conditions for training purposes.
For a video montage of the training, please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjH3UFOyZ_g&feature=youtu.be
The WGFC is grateful to the County of Chester Department of Emergency Services and the County Commissioners for providing the Training Center -- a critical training resource for Chester County's public safety volunteers and career personnel.