June 12th, 2021

Fire recruits train to put out fires, as well as help determine cause

By Herald on May 6, 2021.

Fire investigator Troy Hicks, at left, oversees a group of recruits as they deal with a fire as part of a training session Thursday at the Fire Station No. 4 Training Centre. Herald photo by Al Beeber

Al Beeber – Lethbridge Herald

When flames break out at Lethbridge homes and businesses, the Lethbridge fire department is at the ready.

But putting out the flames is only part of the work of Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services.

Investigating the cause of fires is an intrinsic part of their work and on Thursday nine new recruits were given hands-on training at the 5 Ave. N. fire station.

The recruits, along with Fire Prevention day staff and day shift members at the station, were involved in the training session. It included two separate structures being lit, one with a blow torch and the other with gasoline.

On-scene fire crews are a vital link to – and a crucial part in – the process of discovering how a fire started, said chief fire Marshall Heath Wright.

“They’re our eyes and ears, said Wright.

Materials for the structures and contents being put to the test Thursday were provided by Paul Davis Restoration, a company that specializes in returning fire-damaged homes to usable condition.

The training, said Wright, gives recruits a chance to learn the basics of fire investigation and understand fire behaviour.

Bruce Galts, owner of the Paul Davis franchise, is well aware of the dangers fires pose.

“There are a lot of safety issues and we work with the fire department to make sure our people stay safe,” said Galts, whose parents Marvin and Chloe helped found local home builder Galco Homes. Galt is also the president of that company and he is well aware the issues restorators must confront after fires.

Asbestos, he said, is a big part of the restoration company’s business, with that carcinogen being used in drywall until the1990s, he said.

In the training session, two rooms, one imitating a bedroom, went up in flames quickly after materials inside were ignited.

 One retired firefighter on scene said the foam used in one piece of furniture has the combustibility equivalent to a 45-gallon drum of fuel.

With barbecue season here, Wright said city residents can reduce the risk of fires by keeping grills away from combustible materials such as vinyl siding and making sure hoses going from tank to barbecue are well-connected.

Vinyl siding Wright said, is highly combustible and causes a Venturi effect when ignited.

Fires move from high pressure areas to low, which will spread flames, according to an online video about the impact on firefighting of Bernoulli’s Principle – “an increase in the velocity of a stream of fluid results in a decrease in pressure.”

“It’s a recipe for disaster,” said Wright.

Stucco or Hardie Board siding is less combustible. Hardie Board is a type of siding made of cellulose fibres, sand and cement which is not combustible.

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