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THUNDER BAY -- New construction techniques often make fires burn a whole lot faster than they did in the past.
Floor joists, for instance, can collapse in a mere matter of minutes, putting unprepared firefighters’ lives at stake.
On Wednesday the next generation fire crews were given a hands-on lesson on what to look for and why it’s important to exercise caution before rushing head-first into a burning building without knowing the structure’s integrity.
Former firefighter Brian Berringer, who trains students in the art of fighting fires at Confederation College, said a little knowledge goes a long way.
“What we’re trying to illustrate today is how rapidly floor joists can fail in a fire and to teach them awareness that if they’re going into a burning building they have situational awareness. We’re trying to drum this into these young fellows just to make sure they’re safe when they’re at a scene.”
In the heat of the moment, sometimes it’s easy to forget, Berringer said.
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“The fire service has a whole group of rules we use now to make it safer for everyone involved, but there is a tendency to rush and to dive in and that’s when an accident can happen,” he said.
Berringer said the manufactured, pre-made materials fails a lot faster than what homebuilders used to use.
“That’s not to say it’s not good equipment. The floor joists are very strong, they’re very quiet, they do a good job, but they do have a tendency to fail quickly in a fire. So we’re teaching the dangers.”
Mitchel Van Ramshorst is a first-year student in the pre-service firefighters course, and said he was eager to learn what it takes to be safe on the job.
He watched intently as Berringer lit a pyre of wood underneath the joist, suspended about eight feet above ground on a metal frame.
When it caught, the joist was consumed in a matter of seconds.
“We’ll see different floors and whether we should go inside the building or not,” Van Ramshorst said. “If you go inside the building, and certain floors don’t last as long, it could be dangerous for the firefighters.”
That’s a worrisome thought, the would-be firefighter said.
“It’s extremely important. You don’t want you or any of your friends and crew members going in there and having a situation that could lead to death,” he said.
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