The LSU Fire and Emergency Training Institute held a training exercise utilizing a new mobile simulator Saturday at the West Feliciana Parish Fire Protection District 1 training center in St. Francisville.

Nearly 35 firefighters from West Feliciana Parish, Jackson, Slaughter and Zachary fire departments attended the exercise that included classroom instruction and firefighting demonstrations led by institute Director Dave Casey.

The program is designed to teach the history of methods used in fire fighting from the 1940s and 1950s through today and how some of those methods have changed over time, West Feliciana Fire Chief James Wood said.

“What was once considered best firefighting practices may not have been the best methods after all,” Wood said.

Following 90 minutes of classroom instruction, the firefighters moved outdoors to the mobile simulator, called a burn box, to prepare for live fire drill inside the mobile unit, which was used for the first time on Saturday.

Organic hay, which burns more cleanly, and wood pallets were set ablaze inside the burn box, windows were closed, and groups of firefighters alternated turns, combatting the blaze both inside and outside with firehoses.

While one crew fought the small but intense blaze inside the simulator, another attacked it from outside the unit.

The training exercise was funded by a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant, Casey said, which helps FETI stay on the cutting edge of fire technology.

“Today was a chance to showcase the efforts of LSU FETI, which is modernizing its training practices and facilities to better accommodate the challenges fire departments, especially volunteer fire departments, are facing,” Wood said. “Many departments rely on that technology, the training and assistance they provide.”

West Feliciana Fire District 1, which includes the entire parish, has 11 fire stations. The training center in St. Francisville is staffed by four full-time personnel, including Wood, and the remaining staff are part-time firefighters who are on call seven days a week, 24 hours at a time.

Zachary has both fully staffed career and volunteer departments, while the Jackson and Slaughter fire departments are completely volunteer-based.

Casey said about 88 percent of the training LSU FETI provides is performed at fire departments throughout the state, while the remaining training courses are held at FETI’s two campuses in Baton Rouge and Minden.

Prior to the training event in St. Francisville, a “ribbon burning” for the burn box was held to showcase FETI’s efforts.