Live fire training exercise

Local firefighters purposely set a house on fire in the town of Greenfield.

Shelby, Stoddard, Campbell and La Farge first responders had a rare opportunity to battle a house fire as part of a training exercise.

The Shelby Fire Department says live burning exercises are extremely valuable because they allow firefighters to put their skills to the test.

Travis Proksch, a training officer with Shelby fire department said, “This is invaluable, you can’t really recreate this any other way.”

Proksch said controlled house fires give firefighters an opportunity to test themselves and gain new skills.

“We fight two fires a year, maybe, so you don’t have a lot of experience fighting actual fire,” Proksch said.

These exercises are especially helpful for new firefighters.

“You can tell students that it’s going to be hot and smoky, but until they crawl in and it is hot and smokythey don’t have anything to compare it to,” Proksch said.

Both new and veteran firefighters benefit from having to battle a real house fire.

“How the fire reacts to the hose stream and to the water being applied. It lets them experience actual heat, darked-out black conditions, feel the steam that’s generated from extinguishing the fire,” Proksch said.

Shelby Fire Department Assistant Chief Tony Holinka said, “We did have temperatures up over 800 degrees at the ceiling.”

Holinka said in his 15 years as a firefighter, he’s only had training opportunities like this six times.

“They come few and far between, so when we do get the advantage…we take advantage of it,” Holinka said.

He said exercises like this test how in shape firefighters are.

“Once you do see the fire you have your hose line that you’re dragging that weighs about as much as another person you’re carrying along with you. All in gear that weighs 75 pounds,” Holinka said.

Another benefit is that it forces different departments to work together.

“Very few departments have enough staff to handle a large-scale incident by themselves,” Proksch said.

which is why training together is so important.

“When something happens and they show up on a scene together we already know how to work we know the playbook,” Proksch said.

The Shelby Fire Department has been periodically using the house for training throughout the summer and they hope to get more training out of it soon.

The family who owns the house that was a part of today’s training exercise, donated it for fire training because they plan on tearing it down.