BAKER — A souped-up 18-wheel trailer recently put in service gives Baker firefighters opportunities for realistic training on a variety of fires in several settings.
The Kidde Fire Trainer uses propane burners, smoke generators, sound effects and mobile obstacles to simulate the types and locations of fires that firefighters are likely to encounter on any given day, said Jody Crosby, the Baker Fire Department’s training director.
The sound of a baby crying in a smoke-filled room is especially chilling, said Assistant Fire Chief John Champagne.
“It’ll get to you,” he said.
The city received a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to buy the mobile simulator, which cost $332,500. The grant required a 5 percent match, or about $17,000, in city funds, but the City Council also put up the money to buy a tractor to pull the trailer.
Fire Chief Danny Edwards said the grant requires the Baker department to make the mobile simulator available to other fire departments for training.
Representatives of six area departments visited Baker recently while Kidde technician Pat Connelly taught Baker firefighters how to set up and operate the simulator, Edwards said.
“A good thing about this is that you don’t have to take your men out of the district for training. They don’t have to leave,” Edwards said.
Some departments, including the LSU Fire and Emergency Training Institute, have fixed “burn buildings,” Edwards said.
The fires inside the trailer are fed with propane, but several computerized safety systems are in place to protect the trainees, Crosby said. A smoke generator is needed to add to the effect, because propane burns without smoke.
Using propane and a liquid with a mineral oil base for the smoke eliminates air pollution, Crosby said.
Connelly said the trailer has two “burn pans” that can be set up with props to simulate blazes in a stove, love seat, a motor-generator, a rack of acetylene bottles, a paint locker and other objects.
When the trainee puts enough water on the fire to extinguish the flames, sensors cut off the propane supply, Connelly said.
The flames also can be made to simulate “flash-over” or “roll-over” scenarios in which hot, combustible gases suddenly ignite when oxygen is introduced to the mixture.
Connelly said the sound system has 100 different sounds, such as the baby crying, a woman screaming for help, running engines, fire truck sirens and others.
Compartments on top of the trailer open to simulate a two-story building accessible from a flight of stairs inside and a roof that can be pitched at different angles.
The roof section includes a panel that can be removed and covered with plywood for practice in cutting a hole in a roof.
Inside, the simulator includes materials that can be set up to form a maze, a reinforced door, a window blocked by burglar bars and other obstacles a firefighter might encounter, Crosby said.