Thirty volunteer firefighters from the three departments completed confined space training in a 45-foot semi-trailer operated by Anoka-Hennepin Technical College.
"It's a really good training," said Jeff Ruprecht, training officer for the Paynesville Fire Department. "It's probably the third or fourth time we've had the van out here."
In pairs, the firefighters made their way through the cages in the extreme conditions of the trailer. They had to negotiate the confined space while wearing breathing apparatus. Obstacles were put in their way, and there were trap doors and dead ends.
Ruprecht said the firefighters had to work together as a team to get through.
The firefighters' progress is monitored by infrared cameras, making the environment very safe.
The training session started at 6 p.m. and lasted until about 9 p.m. The trailer was heated and dark. Several firefighters went through more than once.
Had the session lasted longer, more variables like smoke, fatigue, and noise could have been added to the simulation. Or firefighters could have been asked to turn off a gas nozzle or rescue a body.
The exercise is monitored from the control room in the trailer.
The Paynesville Fire Department holds training sessions at least once a month. The department has acquired a house and will be conducting a series of exercises this summer, starting with search and rescue drills and finally burning it this fall.
"We really hit it hard in the summer," said Ruprecht. "We can do a lot with the warmer weather."
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