Rurally Speaking: Fire Service Innovation Meets Fire Service Education

By Carl J. Haddon

Over the last few months, I’ve had numerous conversations with fire service product, apparatus, and equipment manufacturers for various reasons. One topic was trade shows. Many of these companies are becoming interested in events that involve real firefighter education and training and where their products can be put to use under realistic scenarios.

Many of these same manufacturers have been burned in the past by slick talking, keyboard warrior, self-promoting trainers and training companies. As a long-standing fire service instructor, I am very glad to hear that these companies plan to up their vetting processes for trainers and training companies to avoid getting burned again.

This stuff is all well and good, but how does it apply to “Rurally Speaking”? Funny you should ask…

On September 27-29, there was a live fire, acquired commercial structure (in accordance with NFPA 1403) training event that took place in Thibodaux (pronounced “tib-o-dough”), Louisiana, that brought state-of-the-art products, services, apparatus, as well as local and national companies, together with more than 20 “seasoned” fire service instructors from all over the country. The event, known as “Burnin in da Bayou,” had registered students from 10 or 11 different states and came from as far away as Maine and Upstate New York. The vast majority of the fire departments represented at this event were primarily smaller career and rural departments. The training skills stations’ and evolutions’ focuses were: rapid intervention, engine solutions, and truck company operations.

This training event took place in an acquired hospital complex and was supported and sponsored by many manufacturers and fire equipment dealers in our business.

The REV Group/Ferrara Fire Apparatus provided two working ladder trucks for the event to keep local departments from having to take their apparatus out of service and to showcase its apparatus. Honeywell Responder Products provided instructor PPE. Elkhart provided all nozzles and appliances, and Key Hose brought varying sizes of fire hose. Bullard offered to provide the event with up to 10 new thermal imaging cameras. Team Equipment provided rotary saws for our roof and ventilation skills stations and evolutions. Premier Equipment took care of our instructor SCBA needs.

On the firefighter safety/decon and wellbeing side of the event, we had Responder Wipes with cases of its decon products, as well as True North Gear decon bags, rapid intervention bags, and rope bags.

In addition to the companies listed above, we had local sponsoring firms such as Riviere/Abel Law firm, Premier Fire, BGS, and Rouses Markets that joined with Honeywell Responder Products in sponsoring our onsite lunches for 150 firefighters and instructors each day. Riviere Law and Honeywell also sponsored sit-down catered dinners and socials each night of the weekend.

For the sake of full disclosure, I am an instructor and a coordinator for this event. I am not trying to promote this event in any way other than to illustrate how fire service industry and vetted instructors can work together to offer great training experiences while safely exposing our firefighter students to different fire service products. We have done other very successful training events of this size and scope in Louisiana and other parts of the country and abroad in the past. These manufacturers and companies have asked, or have been asked to be involved because we have worked well together previously. This event, however, incorporated live fire training and education with industry innovation. Industry brass were on site to observe the teaching and the learning process that use their products, equipment, and apparatus. The dinners and social functions were times for firefighters, instructors, and corporate to get to understand a little bit more about each other and allow for feedback on products, goods, and services. After all, we should ALL want to be better at what we do.

When everyone went home to their respective cities and states at the end of the event, firefighters and industry members alike had learned things that will help them hone their respective craft as well as feeling that they invested in a worthwhile endeavor.

CARL J. HADDON is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board and the director of Five Star Fire Training LLC, which is sponsored, in part, by Volvo North America. He served as assistant chief and fire commissioner for the North Fork (ID) Fire Department and is a career veteran of more than 25 years in the fire and EMS services in southern California. He is a certified Level 2 fire instructor and an ISFSI member and teaches Five Star Auto Extrication and NFPA 610 classes across the country.

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