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Training at the core of structural firefighting skills
Thursday 15 August 2019 – 12:00 PM

​August has the highest number of home fires on average and Western Australia’s firefighters have been honing their skills in structural firefighting.

All DFES career firefighters and a number of metropolitan-based volunteer firefighters have recently undertaken a refresher course in structural firefighting as part of a newly developed core skills training program.

The training was developed to reinforce and practice existing skills and ensure there’s a consistent level of knowledge amongst firefighters. Structural firefighting can be difficult due to many variables contributing to the size, speed and impact of the fire so the training is beneficial in giving firefighters a greater understanding of the challenges they face.

Senior Firefighter Greg Henry developed the content for the training and has helped facilitate the sessions with firefighting personnel that have focused on safety. 

“While firefighters are regularly undertaking training to maintain their skills, the core skills training will bring consistency and a refresher on safe entry and attack methods in a structure fire with live fire simulations,” Greg said.

“The training consisted of both theory and practical components to cover how we fight residential structure fires in the most efficient and safe way possible.

“A key focus has been on understanding the dangers of heat and how it can overwhelm and in extreme cases damage our protective clothing, so the training covered the need to recognise hazards from internal fires and the methods we need to take to avoid them.

“Internal structural firefighting has risks so understanding the nature of those risks is important to provide the context for why we use the methods we do to attack a fire, like staying low and gas cooling techniques.  

“If we can control the fire conditions to prevent sudden increases in heat throughout the structure, then that’s safer for firefighters undertaking search and rescue and better for any people trapped inside.” 

Another of the techniques firefighters put into practise was forceable entry using purpose-built doors to simulate a structural fire scenario where firefighters have to enter a burning building.

“Forceable entry isn’t something we have had the opportunity to properly train for however it is certainly something we need to be skilled in especially if there are occupants trapped inside a burning building,” Greg said. 

“If we can break through the door to get in there faster well then it makes it more efficient and more effective and better for any potential occupants.

“Safety is the priority for us so ultimately, this training is helping us to be more efficient in controlling and extinguishing fires faster and conducting search and rescue operations in a safer manner.”

The core skills training program is in its inaugural year and will see firefighters undertaking training in a range of essential firefighting, emergency management and rescue skills on a five-year rotational basis. They will also cover rescue, HAZMAT, driving and bushfire skills in the coming years.

Since July last year firefighters have attended more than 800 home fires in Western Australia, many of which could have been prevented. Heading into August, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has launched a Home Fire Safety campaign as a timely reminder to the community that the most common causes of home fires can be prevented.

While firefighters are ready to extinguish home fires quickly and safely, the community is urged to do what they can to prevent a devastating fire in their home by taking the following precautions:

  • install mains powered smoke alarms
  • never leave cooking unattended
  • keep loose materials and fabrics away from heat sources
  • turn off heaters and extinguish candles and oil burners before leaving the room
  • do not overload power boards
  • keep matches and lighters out of reach of children. 

Visit the Home Fire Safety page on the DFES website to find out more.