When the door was opened smoke poured from the building. Flames could be seen rising inside. A fireman entered and the door closed behind him. It was a training exercise designed to introduce new firemen to conditions they might face in the near future.
Michael Taylor, a veteran Minot Fire Department captain, was overseeing Tuesday's exercise. Five new firefighters were entering a new phase of their training.
"We wanted to give them a feel for what it's like to be in a fire. This simulates that," said Taylor while watching the trainees enter and the leave the building. "It's hot, smoky, just like a real fire. A fireman is always learning. It's a constant process."
A firefighter wearing full breathing apparatus emerges from a smoke-filled room during a training exercise Tuesday. The training grounds is located near the Minot International Airport.
New firemen receive training on various aspects of firefighting for 10 hours per day for a period of three weeks. The five men who were participating in Tuesday's training session will soon be assigned to firefighting crew and join Minot's firefighters.
"They were excited about this. They all wanted to go inside and get dirty and learn. This is the day they'll find out how they might be in a fire," explained Taylor.
The firefighters were paying particular attention to their equipment, particularly their self-contained breathing apparatus. A fireman must learn to trust his equipment if he is going to be effective during an emergency. Those who participated in Tuesday's exercise seemed to take the exposure to fire with ease.
Taylor called the session more exploratory than an evaluation. The idea was to see where each fireman was at in his training. Among the techniques taught was how to remove smoke from a building using a stream of water. It was a rather simple, yet effective method that the new firemen were able to experience. It may be a technique they'll need to use on their next call.
Sometimes firefighters withdraw from a fire scene that is considered out of control or too dangerous. At house fires, though, says Taylor, the emphasis is on saving lives and property.
"If we're not able to go in, we can't do any good for anybody else," said Taylor.
At those times a firefighter must be able to identify the dangers and react accordingly. Behind closed doors and surrounded by fire, Tuesday's trainees were introduced to one phenomenon firemen must learn to recognize during an active fire.
"They'll watch the fire grow and see the thermal layering come down," said Taylor. "That's how the heat that rises to the top makes its way down. You can actually see it with your eyes."
The first of the five firemen that participated in burn training on Tuesday is scheduled to join an active crew the first week of February. The remaining four are scheduled to go "on line" a few days later.
"They will help meet a growing need in this growing community of ours," said Tim Beach, assistant fire chief.