Live burn is a unique training exercise
Last week the Milton Fire Department conducted its second live burn exercise this year.

Shane and Jess Morris donated their house to the department. It is unusual for a department to do two live burns in one year. This training is so intense and valuable that the Milton community should know how fortunate we are. A live burn is a costly and time consuming effort. Planning often takes six months or more once a structure has been donated and accepted for an exercise. It is well worth the effort. Most of the training is not visible to the community.

It starts when we don our “bunker gear” which weighs about 50 pounds. Then we go to the scene and set up the trucks and hoses. The training officers light the hay bales and pallets inside the house. First in is usually a rescue team consisting of two firefighters. When we get into the house, we crawl because the smoke above our heads is 800 degrees or more. The air pack is another 60 pounds on their back. We can’t see because the smoke steals all the light. We can’t even see the fire yet but we can feel it. Firefighters follow one wall with one hand and probe out into the room with a tool in the other. We keep calling out so you know we’re coming for you. We keep in contact with each other, they guy in the back grabbing the other’s boot when he can’t see him. When we find furniture, we search under it and on top of it as we go around. People, especially children hide under beds and in closets. If we find someone, in training it is a dummy that weighs 180 pounds, we have to get them out. The next team in will be an attack team. The hose they pull into the building is heavy and ridged. Pulling it through doorways and stairs is back breaking work. When they open up the nozzle it takes both of them handle the pressure and put the water on the flames. They don’t stand up either, at first the water becomes superheated steam joining the black smoke and flames overhead. Simply breathing is hard. Each inhalation has to open the regulator valve. It’s a sound that you hear above the fire and the trucks and the yelling.

I’ve been involved, in one way or another, with four live burn exercises in Milton. Those were the most valuable experiences I’ve ever had. Most importantly, I was working with some of most skillful, dedicated and courageous people I have ever known. Just as importantly, I was working for a great community. You have given your firefighters excellent facilities, equipment and support. Thank you.

Greg Burbo

Greg Burbo is a former Milton firefighter.