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Firefighters use mobile simulator to practice ‘real life’ house fire scenarios

It’s a simulator designed to give firefighters “essential training.”

A mobile live fire-training unit was at the Central Elgin Fire hall this weekend, with firefighters going through multiple scenarios to prepare them for a real life situation.

“Going in there with zero visibility, waiting, looking to see what's about to happen,” said Randi Robinson, a rookie firefighter who has been on the job for just eight months. “You never know what's going to happen. No training is ever going to be the same as a real life."

In her short time as a Central Elgin firefighter, Robinson has only battled a recent hay barn fire. She’s never been inside a live house fire, and was appreciative of her experienced colleagues as they entered the pitch-black simulator.

“Me and my crew went in there and were heading to the couch simulation,” said Robinson. “Once we extinguished that, it brought us over to the kitchen where there was a fire. We passed the nozzle over and hit the kitchen fire, and it was such a tight space. Our communication was excellent and we were getting out there pretty fast and it was a really great training.”

A mobile live fire-training unit allowed firefighters to practice fighting real fires in a controlled environment just outside of St. Thomas, Ont. on August 6, 2023. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

Central Elgin doesn't have many structure fires, so this gives the firefighters an understanding of how the hose will react, the interior of a fire, and communication with the commander.

“They get the smoke, they get the very limited visibility, they get the heat, and then it helps reassure them and get their confidence built up, versus going into a structure fire for the first time and then being nervous,” said Ray Ormerod, chief of Central Elgin Fire.

With two stories and multiple props, the office of the Ontario Fire Marshal has high demand for this simulator.

They have just two in the province, and split north and south of Barrie, Ont.

Central Elgin firefighters prepared to enter a mobile live fire-training unit through thick smoke just outside of St. Thomas, Ont. on August 6, 2023. (Brent Lale/CTV News London)

“We had over 100 fire departments request [the simulator] this year, and we can only get to 50 locations,” said Jeff Van Rybroeck, assistant deputy fire marshal. “So we do have a need for more of this type of training. It also has shown the importance of this training and the ability for us to get this bring this training to the different fire halls throughout the province.”

Robinson called this essential training.

“Until we got the first one, this is what we can do. Practice like you play, keep training,” said Robinson. “I've just learned from a captain that's been on Malahide Fire Department for 12 years. He attended the Aylmer fire, and he's got so much knowledge and he was able to pass that along to me today in there. It's something that I will put into my career.” Top Stories

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