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County firefighters receive flashover training

Lead instructor John Stout instructs his students about the dangers of flashover training on Saturday.
After the demonstration Stout reviews with local firefighters.

Sun Advocate community editor

Members of the Utah Fire Academy presented flashover demonstrations for approximately 30 volunteer firefighters on Saturday. The emergency personnel from Price, Helper, Wellington and East Carbon met at the fire towner to receive training that is paramount to their personnel safety and could one day save their lives.

Flashover is characterized as a stage when the contents within a fire are heated to ignition temperatures and flames breakout instantly on almost all surfaces. It is known as one of the most dangerous phenomenon firefighters can face and can cause serious injury or death within seconds.

"I like coming out to do these classes," said lead instructor John Stout. "Teaching these classes has been the best part of my career... Flashover is the leading cause of death for firefighters in the United States and therefore I feel that this class is of the utmost importance."

The training begins an hour long instruction period where the local firefighters were taught about flashover and its behaviors before going into the simulator.

The demonstration portion of the class took place in the academy's flashover trailer which the Utah team procured from the Swedish National Rescue Academy in 1994.

Temperatures within the trailer reach a minimum of 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Stout, human skin receives third degree burns when exposed to temperatures over 130 degrees.

"One of the reasons we are able to conduct this training is because of the advances in your personal protective equipment," said Stout. "It allows a person to observe temperatures that used to be out of the question."

According to Price City Fire Chief Paul Bedont, another benefit to the trailer is the fact that the firefighters can sit below the fire keeping the temperature down enough to witness the flashover behavior.

"This training really is essential," said Bedont. "Every firefighter needs to have this knowledge, we had some individuals get out of a trailer just before it flashed over recently and the knowledge of fire behavior could have saved their lives."

During the class, Stout detailed some techniques for buying a few seconds before the room is engulfed in flames. He recommended that firefighters pencil the walls with their hose and do their best to avoid disorientation if they noticed pre-flashover behavior but he also cautioned that once flashover begins a firefighter literally has only seconds to get out of the area.

Flashover occurs when heat rises and builds above a fire. Once an area is saturated with heat and smoke it begins to radiate back into the source, a process known as thermal radiation feedback.

The demonstrated flashover is created with conventional fuels, something that can also make real life flashover much more complicated.

"Everything is made from synthetics these days," said Stout. "They burn at a much higher temperature than conventional substances like wood and they can cause flashover to occur much more rapidly."

Stout reported that synthetics such as plastic have the potential to burn at as high as 1800 degrees Fahrenheit causing a rapid increase in flashover rates.

"The most important part of this class is getting you guys real experience with the signs of an impending flashover," continued Stout. "No one can survive in flashover temperatures without full gear, so when you see the signs you need to get out, real life isn't like Kurt Russell coming out of a backdraft carrying a child."

Overall the Price city fire chief was very pleased with the training's outcome.

"Everyone got the training they needed and no one was injured so we were really happy with the way things turned out."

Bedont did note that the cost of a training like this sets the fire academy back nearly $10,000. He reported that the training was requested by Wellington's department but is participated in by all county personnel who need the training because of cost.

"Fire training can be very expensive," concluded the Bedont. "But it is needed to keep our firefighters and community safe."

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