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Trainees fight fire with knowledge, hands-on experience

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By Deborah Swearingen

The first snowy day in weeks did not dampen the training blaze at the West Metro Fire training center last Thursday.

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Six West Metro recruits, three Tri-Lakes Monument Fire recruits and 40 or more Red Rocks Community College fire science students received a lesson in fire behavior as three small buildings burned.

Each flaming structure represented a different construction technique that firefighters might encounter in West Metro’s district. One was a basement fire with furniture cluttering the floor; another was a home with Christmas decorations and a dry tree; and the other represented a child’s room with bunk beds, decorations and toys.

“We want them to be aware, and it’s a good visual to see how fire starts small, how it builds to a big fire,” said Lt. John Quinn, a 25-year employee with West Metro.

The recruits built each structure in the weeks prior to the exercise to learn more about the way homes are constructed and how a home’s composition can affect a blaze.

A fire ignited quickly in the basement and immediately spread, causing the upper level of the home to collapse. The child’s room took the longest to catch fire, and it had a metal plate weighing about as much as a firefighter on its roof.

“That’s to let them know how long you can be up there working before you end up into the fire,” Quinn said.

“The big factor we’re wanting to show is, the way that different structures are, you’re going to have hazards as you’re having to work above the fire,” he added.

The exercise also is a lesson in damage control. It teaches students and recruits how to extinguish a fire and leave behind as little damage as possible.

In addition to saving land or a home, less damage helps investigators, too, Quinn said.

“As they’re putting out the fire, someone has to figure out how it started,” he said. “… Finding the cause is very important.”

Recruit Tyler Prythero was hired Jan. 30, after searching for a firefighting job “since about 2014.”

Quinn said Prythero is one of two recruits who went through the Red Rocks Community College program. Though not required, it can help accelerate the process.

The nine West Metro and Tri-Lake recruits have been in training for several of the program’s 16 weeks. At completion, the new hires will be fully certified and able to answer all calls.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.