Local firemen get hands-on live training at apartment complex

Fighting fires is a skill.

There’s more to it than just pouring water where there’s a flame.

Local firemen sharpened some of those skills this week with some rare hands-on training that they believe will help them keep the public safe in future emergency events.

The Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department was given access to the abandoned Rienzi Apartments in the city along Canal Boulevard.

With access to the building, the Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department provided live training to their firemen and also firemen with the Lafourche Crossing 308 Volunteer Fire Department and the Chackbay Volunteer Fire Department.

(See a photo gallery of the training by CLICKING HERE)

Benton Ford, an Assistant Fire Chief with the Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department, said the experience is invaluable, adding that the focus throughout the week was on getting better. Firemen approached the training seriously and progressed — which will allow them to better serve the public in real times of crisis.

“We believe that any time we can expose our guys — from the seasoned firefighter all the way to a brand new guy just getting started — to a realistic environment with unique challenges, we can get better and learn so much,” Ford said. “We challenged everyone at their respective jobs and positions in the past couple of nights and everyone I spoke to said they got a good challenge out of it and that they learned a lot.”

Firemen treated the training like a live trial run for what could someday be a real-to-life apartment complex blaze.

Foret said firemen worked on several skills throughout the week, including forcible entry, roof top training and initial search and secondary search for occupants.

The training was a new challenge for firemen because of the environment.

The Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department has its own, state-of-the-art training center where similar exercises could be conducted, but Foret said firemen who’ve trained at the facility several times have gotten accustomed to the lay of the land.

With a new building, there were no tricks or shortcuts. Firemen had to rely on their instincts and the skills that they’ve been taught to complete their objectives.

Foret said there was no actual live fire in the exercises because of safety concerns due to neighboring complexes in the area.

The fire department also didn’t want to cause an air quality issue by creating real smoke.

But simulated smoke was generated, which gave the volunteers the same effect.

“We created a safe white smoke and it gives us that visual representation that we’d have in a real-life situation,” Foret said. “And it also helps to eliminate some of that normal feeling of someone walking through a room where you can see everything. The smoke eliminates those senses and makes it far more difficult. That adds a challenge to our firefighters who are doing their primary searching and when they’re looking for objects. Just to be able to operate inside of that environment with a new and unique layout — it was just a rare opportunity and we’re so grateful for it.”

Foret said he wanted to thank JB Levert Land Company, the owner of the building, for allowing the fire departments to use the building for training.

Foret said during both training sessions, more than 75 firemen were able to attend.

The Thibodaux Police Department was also given access to the building to do similar exercises to polish up on their crisis situation techniques.

“(JB Levert Land Company) were community-minded and understood how valuable it is for us to have access to something like this,” Foret said. “It’s so beneficial to our members to be able to practice those things that we just can’t easily simulate. It’s not often that we get such an opportunity, but we’re grateful.”

See video from the week, as shot by the Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department.


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