Mobile burn trailer provides firefighters with live fire training

LIHU‘E — A 45-foot, two-story mobile burn trailer was set up Monday in the Vidinha Stadium parking lot to enable Kaua‘i firefighters to train for live fires in a controlled environment, according to a county press release.

The trailer was purchased with Federal Emergency Management Agency money from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, with $264,743 from FEMA and the county’s share of $115,020, the release said.

“I applaud our fire department, especially Chief (Robert) Westerman and Captain Dean Lake, for taking the initiative to apply for a grant that will allow all of our firefighters to receive regular live fire training in a variety of scenarios in a safe environment,” said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. in the release. “Having the mobile burn trailer will undoubtedly enhance their skills and confidence, and result in improved safety and efficiency in the department.”

Kaua‘i is the third county in the state to receive a live burn trailer. O‘ahu and Maui counties have had theirs for several years.

Each module is built according to specifications set by the respective department.

Kaua‘i Fire Department has a Kidde Mobile Fire Trainer T-4000, which is made of heavy-duty, corrosion resistant steel as its base structure, and is capable of replicating several fire scenarios including a flashover-rollover effect.

The simulated fires are fueled by clean-burning, on-board propane tanks that generate non-toxic smoke, creating an environment that firefighters might face in an actual fire.

A computer controlled system constantly monitors interior temperatures and unburned gas levels, and in the event of any emergency, the system will automatically extinguish the fire and ventilate the trailer.

Other features include: movable interior walls that can be set up as a home or a business, complete with a stove, couch, bed or motor; a pitched roof chop out panel for practicing ventilation techniques; forcible entry door prop; internal staircase; electrical winch system; and staircase to roof.

“We’re very excited about starting a live fire training program using state-of-the-art equipment,” said Westerman, noting that a manufacturer’s representative is currently on island teaching a “Train the Trainer” course to 10 Kaua‘i firefighters.

“The main goal of the program is to regularly teach and maintain proficiency in fire attack, fire suppression, flashover, and search and rescue skills following the standards set forth by the National Fire Protection Association,” Westerman said.

With 121 firefighters, the fire chief anticipates that it will take approximately one year for the entire staff to cycle through the live burn training for the first time.

In the future, the fire department plans to invite other agencies such as the Kaua‘i Police Department and the Crash/Fire/Rescue Unit stationed at the Lihu‘e Airport to utilize the trailer for training.

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