Firefighters commended for new training apparatus

In order to stay on top of their duties, East Pierce Fire and Rescue firefighters constantly practice and train to work equipment, fight fires and navigate hazardous environments.

Recently, Firefighters Jeffery Collins and Adam Lathrop lead a construction project for a new training roof for the department, and received Certificates of Commendation during the Jan. 20 Board of Commissioners meeting for their efforts.

Other on-duty firefighters also participated in the construction between calls.

“It’s the best one we’ve ever had,” Collins said, describing the new training roof as more versatile than the department’s previous tools.

Collins said the new training roof simulates two different kinds of residential roofs firefighters may have to deal with during a house fire.

The training roof has two sides to it; one side is what Collins and other firefighters describe as “walkable” because the incline of the roof allows a firefighter to remain stable and walk along the roof without aid. The other side of the roof is a “high pitch” roof with a steep incline, which forces firefighters to use a ladder to operate on the roof.

More importantly than being able to walk on a roof, though, is how to cut through one. Cutting through the roof, Collins said, is an important firefighting technique.

“It basically creates a chimney,” he said. “It increases visibility and makes our jobs easier.”

Collins compared cutting holes in a roof during a fire to lifting the lid off a pot of boiling water.

But while venting the smoke is important for visibility, venting the heat is even more crucial to prevent backdraft and keep firefighters safe. Collins said a backdraft starts when the fire environment get extremely hot, but it is also oxygen starved and can’t burn. When a door then opens or a window shatters and oxygen is reintroduced to the fire, the fire quickly starts up again, and temperatures soar.

“When someone opens that (environment) and there is a rapid influx of oxygen, its like an explosion,” said Collins. “It’s not as fast as a typical explosion… but it is extremely devastating.”

While Collins and Lathrop built the roof themselves, they used their own tools and worked between calls while on-shift to reduce overtime costs. The project cost just under $5,000, although Collins said it would have cost a small fortune to have an outside organization build the roof, and he knows that roof will last 15 to 20 years, “if we take care of it.”