Firefighters in Tolland had the chance to fight real flames Saturday thanks to the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services.
A trailer was brought to the firehouse at no cost to the department. Inside the trailer was a mockup of a kitchen fire and a bedroom fire. Real flames were provided by propane and fake smoke was pumped in to make the situation more real.
Long-time volunteer firefighter and Chief Michael Sullivan said the training was very important because "...when the tones go off, we dealt with the same situation as the paid departments, same danger..."
Sullivan said the experience for volunteers from his department and the surrounding departments he also invited would be something they would never forget.
This training was also important for the new firefighters because volunteers are not allowed into a burning structure until they are properly trained. That training was provided by the simulator.
Temperatures inside the trailer can reach 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and firefighters must know how to safely enter a home and then battle the flames. Tolland Deputy Chief Eric Munson said the conditions inside the trailer were very realistic.
One of the problems facing small departments is recruitment and retention. Sullivan said many of the firefighters have to travel long distances to find work and that takes them far away from the firehouse. He said it is also a time commitment, showing up for training one night a week and giving up a Saturday for live fire training.
Tolland and surrounding departments were not finished with training Saturday. There was another drill scheduled for June. That drill will simulate a tanker truck crash with a school bus.
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