Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Playing with fire

Local fire crews train at Bavarian Village complex

Express Staff Writer

From left, Ketchum Fire Department Senior Firefighter Chris Seldon, Assistant Chief Robbie Englehart and Capt. Miles Canfield observe flames licking the window of a Bavarian Village unit in West Ketchum on Saturday. The flames were part of a fire deliberately set by crews for a live-fire training exercise. Photo by Willy Cook

Smoke filled the air in West Ketchum on Saturday, and the parking lot at the Bavarian Village apartment complex was filled with engines, tankers and firefighters all working to extinguish flames that had been set by members of the department as part of a training exercise.

Three fire departments extinguished 12 separate fires over the course of six hours, giving firefighters a taste of what it might be like to be in a live structure fire.

"It was awesome," said Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle.

Saturday's burn was attended by almost 40 firefighters from the Ketchum, Sun Valley and Wood River fire departments. Though the burn might have looked like the real thing, Elle said everything was prepared for the safety of the crews.

"If the fire gets too big or you get in trouble in there, we have a rapid intervention crew," he said. "It's a much more controlled environment than a real fire is, but we're trying to train people to be ready for that."

Fires were set using straw and wooden pallets. None of the buildings was burned to the ground, but one was gutted during the course of the exercise.

Elle said the Ketchum Fire Department Training Division put a lot of effort into preparing for the burn, to create a valuable experience for the departments' recently initiated members.

"The prep took weeks to get ready for this, and it was well worth it," he said. "Almost all of the new members got to experience live fire for the first time."

Katherine Wutz:

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