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Realistic training beyond a classroom is a necessity to ensure firefighter safety and readiness. Almost every firefighter has heard the following: “Train as if your life depends on it, because it does.”

“Firefighters can only learn so much sitting in a classroom or by reading in textbooks and journals,” said Thomasville Fire Rescue Chief of Training Craig Dukes. “Video instruction about search and rescue, forcing entry into buildings, ventilating smoke from structures, breaching walls, and self-rescue techniques is nothing like doing it for real.” When firefighters recently had the chance to have hands-on realistic training at the soon-to-be demolished Roses Building in Thomasville, Fire Chief Chris Bowman took full advantage.

“The Roses building provided the perfect opportunity for our firefighters to gain hands-on experience responding to a fire in a large commercial environment,” Chief Bowman said. Thomasville firefighters were able to practice multiple training evolutions on larger, more complicated structures for two weeks. Although Thomasville Fire Rescue primarily responds to residential calls, it also responds to a handful of commercial fires each year. According to Chief Bowman, the opportunity to train in the Roses Building helped firefighters improve their ability to handle fires in both environments.

Thomasville Fire Rescue Captain Jonathan Paschal said, “Large buildings pose several different challenges for firefighters, including the need for larger and longer hose lines and special search and rescue techniques.” Once firefighters are inside a large structure, they’re often positioned farther from immediate exit points and must cover more space in often zero visibility situations.

“This realistic training also allows firefighters to learn to rely on other senses when deprived of their sight. Communications between crews is a major challenge in a big structure,” said TFR Lieutenant Corey Thompson. Thompson is a Thomasville Firefighter and a Georgia State Fire Instructor. “It’s easy to take staying in touch for granted in a smaller residential structure where you can easily hear where everyone is located. In a building as large as Roses, the only way you know if someone else is there is by constantly communicating and actually going to the person you need to talk to.”

Lieutenant Thompson explained that hands-on training such as this presents an opportunity for firefighters to practice techniques and sharpen their skills to ensure operational readiness in these types of structures. Thompson went on to explain that this type of training is vastly different from pulling up to their training ground. “Unlike at our training facility, this acquired structure allows us to position fire trucks for large structure fires and raise ladders to the roof at an unfamiliar location.”

During the Roses Building training, firefighters practiced several basic procedures in a real-world environment. “Practicing at these structures is huge for realism,” Thompson said. “For firefighters, realistic training evolutions help to ensure an optimal level of readiness.”