A hot pur­chase

Amherst Fire Depart­ment or­ders ready-made fires


How do fire­fight­ers keep bat­tleready when there are no fires to fight? They get the fire de­liv­ered to them.

“Prac­tice in any method is al­ways ex­tremely im­por­tant for a fire depart­ment. We’re just pro­vid­ing a means to have live fire in their back­yard, which you don’t get ev­ery day,” said Everett Hiltz. “Every­body that’s here has been through ba­sic train­ing, and the whole point of us be­ing here is to re­fresh those skills and make sure those skills are at the fore­front of their brain if they do get a struc­ture fire.”

Hiltz is the se­nior in­struc­tor with the Nova Sco­tia Fire­fighter School, and man­ages their off­site, mobile burn unit trailer.

The trailer was re­cently in Amherst for six days.

“It’s a 53-foot trailer. The sec­ond level folds down and col­lapses for trans­port,” said Hiltz, who is also the chief of the Ch­ester Fire Depart­ment.

The trailer can get like an oven inside, reach­ing tem­per­a­tures of 175 C.

“There’s three fire places on the floor, as well as the fixed-prop on the ceil­ing that lets us sim­u­late a rollover con­di­tion inside a struc­ture,’ said Hiltz. What is a rollover? “What’s hap­pen­ing inside a fire is, as our fire burns, the smoke, which is un­burned fuel, will stay inside the struc­ture and that smoke starts to burn it­self,” said Hiltz. “That burn­ing smoke is called rollover, and we sim­u­late that.”

In Amherst, Hiltz was running the sim­u­la­tions at about 95 C. He says those tem­per­a­tures aren’t too bad as long as you wear good bunker gear.

“You can buy cheap-made bunker gear or you can put good money into good bunker gear that with­stands those tem­per­a­tures bet­ter,” said Hiltz. “In the case of fire­fight­ing equip­ment, it’s money well spent.”

The fire-fight­ing trailer has trav­elled through­out the Mar­itimes since 2000 train­ing hun­dreds of fire­fight­ers each year.

“We start off the week do­ing a re­fresher on our equip­ment and do­ing some search-with-smoke con­di­tions, res­cu­ing vic­tims and do­ing proper vic­tim car­ries and drags,” said Hiltz.

“Then we tran­si­tion into our di­rect, in­di­rect and com­bi­na­tion fire at­tacks,”

The Amherst fire­fight­ers fin­ished the week prac­tic­ing evo­lu­tions, whereby the fire­fight­ers run their own drills.

“We give them very generic in­for­ma­tion like they get on a fire call, to which we have some­one set up a com­mand po­si­tion and they run the ra­dios and han­dle the scene,” said Hiltz.

The drills are based on real-life sce­nar­ios.

“A lot of the evo­lu­tion based stuff is from calls I’ve been on my­self or told about from fire­fight­ers from around Nova Sco­tia, both ca­reer and vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers,” he said.

He said the Amherst fire­fight­ers did a re­ally good job.

“It’s a good group here.”

He also said, de­pend­ing on the region, there are less fires to­day than there were in 1999, when he first started fire­fight­ing.

“I find we’re do­ing more med­i­cals and ve­hi­cle col­li­sions now than fires, and that’s not so bad,” said Hiltz.

“That means that de­part­ments are hav­ing an im­pact with fire preven­tion on the younger gen­er­a­tion, with things such as check­ing fire de­tec­tors.”


Amherst fire­fight­ers, from left, Allen Martin, Marc Buske and Chris Clark, stand in front of the Nova Sco­tia Fire­fighter School’s mobile burn unit. The trailer can get up to 175 C inside.

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