Although most homes will never experience a fire, a two-story fa
mily residence in Superior burst into flames dozens of times this week. Over and over, firefighters carried out an orchestrated response to beat the fire down. The training took place Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 2115 E. Third St., one of three homes slated for demolition to build a new Kwik Trip.
Capt. Lindzi Campbell with the Superior Fire Department called the live fire training priceless.
“When you read something on a black and white one-dimensional piece of paper, and then you try to apply it in the real world, sometimes things get missed,” said Campbell, the department’s fire training coordinator. “It’s different when you go to do it. Especially when you’re looking at it in 3-D.”
The live burn gave firefighters a chance to practice department policy, everything from terminology and pulling hoses to clearing smoke with a positive pressure attack.
“You get how the fire actually reacts in a structure like this,” said Battalion Chief Erik Sutton. “We’ve been doing training with Cloquet’s burn trailer, which is good training, but it’s not the same.”
In the home on East Third Street, firefighters set piles of wood, cardboard and straw on fire in two different upstairs rooms, then quenched the flames.
“So you’re getting real smoke, real heat,” Sutton said. “You get the different layouts of the room itself … you have to come up stairs, around the corner, into the room.”
The firefighters were able to beat back the flames about a dozen times Tuesday morning. That repetition allowed them to find and fix things that didn’t go well initially, leading to a smoother, quicker response. Firefighters often rotate positions to cover for members who are on vacation or sick, Campbell said. During this week’s training, they mixed it up so each member got to train in each position.
“The more we can make these assignments, these job assignments, kind of more second nature rather than having to think about them, then we’re going to be more efficient and we’re going to be faster,” Campbell said. “Obviously time is of the essence so the smoother things go, the better it is for everyone, including us.”
Kwik Trip donated all three houses to the Superior Fire Department for training purposes.
“It’s really good training for us to get into the actual houses we have fires in during the year,” said Battalion Chief Steve Edwards.
Last week, firefighters spent time on rescue training and practicing how to forcibly enter buildings, breach walls and cut ventilation holes in a roof. They also put a triangle cut in a garage door. Sutton said that mechanical garage doors can slam shut during a fire, leaving firefighters trapped. The cut offers them an exit.
“Kwik Trip donated these houses to us and we’re really grateful for that,” Sutton said. In addition, Campbells Do It Center donated sheetrock and plywood needed to prepare the home for the burn.
“Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” Sutton said.
Although the department has trained with burn barrels in homes and the Cloquet burn trailer, this is the first live fire exercise of this type they have worked on in more than 20 years, Sutton said.
“We just use the opportunity to basically put things from a piece of paper into real time,” Campbell said. “This is priceless, basically.”