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Butler Fire Science adds Live Fire Training to its program

Butler Community College’s Fire Science program is adding a Live Fire Training Prop to its arsenal of training resources
Butler Community College is adding an 1,100 square foot live fire training structure for students to experience realistic fire simulations. A nearly $44K shipping container structure will allow students to navigate fire, smoke, heat and other hazardous conditions.
Published: Monday, November 15th, 2021

Fire Science students now able to experience more realistic training

Smoke, fire, ash. Virtual simulation may be fine but there’s nothing like the real thing. Especially when it involves training in one of the most dangerous public services, firefighting.

In collaboration with the City of El Dorado, Butler Community College’s Fire Science program is adding a Live Fire Training Prop to its arsenal of training resources. The word ‘prop’ is deceptive. This latest addition to the Fire Science facility in El Dorado is a formidable construction consisting of shipping containers; four 20-foot and one 40-foot. With the help of Blackburn Construction, the containers are stacked and configured into an 1100 square foot, two-story structure to supply realistic training for Butler students and area firefighters.   

As Butler Lead Fire Science Instructor, Zach Lindsey explained, students will be able to experience heat, fire, smoke, and other hazardous conditions of an actual fire in a controlled environment. The two-story construction can simulate a range of scenarios, including two story buildings, and entrance from the top to simulate basement situations. Students will experience fiery, smoky situations in a progression, beginning with elementary and moving to more difficult challenges.   

Deceptively low-tech, the construct of used shipping containers will incorporate a live fire room, configurable props, and no-fail mechanical rescue devices. Costs for operation and maintenance are relatively low as well. Hay, straw, and OSB board are budgeted items; wood pallets are donated often. Lindsey noted that regular maintenance such as cleanup and rust prevention will prolong the life of the prop for many years.

The total cost of the prop is $43,800. The City of El Dorado is donating $7,500 towards the cost, leaving the remaining balance of $35,300 to be funded by the college’s Maintenance of Effort Designated Funds. The concrete pad required for support is already in place.

The addition of the Live Fire Training prop adds an important dimension to the growing Fire Science program. The current small live fire room is useful but limited in its ability to supply a realistic environment. The Fire Science facility also features a training tower, and a ‘clean’ container environment where novice and advanced students alike can practice drills, rescues and other skill-building exercises without the addition of fire and heat.

Live Fire Training practice is not new, and most Butler instructors have experienced this type of training. There are similar facilities at the Wichita-Sedgwick County fire training center. Though nearby, the Sedgwick County facility is used so regularly by its own members that outside training is not easily available.

Lindsey and the Fire Science department are committed to being open to innovation. He said that two faculty members will travel to Mesa, AZ in December for NFPA 1403 training. The 3-day class will allow them to become certified in fixed facility live fire instruction. The certification will supply added recognition and visibility for the program, and updates on the latest practices.  

The immediate impact of this new addition itself is to help Butler students and area firefighters in making safer and more effective decisions when suppressing fires. As the experience and recognition of the Live Fire Training grows, a goal of the Fire Science Department is to become a hub, attracting students and departments across the region, as well as nationally recognized instructors.   

Construction on the prop began in late October, starting with the stacking of the containers by Blackburn Construction. Lindsey said that the work will be completed in stages, chiefly by the Butler Fire Science personnel. He anticipates that the first floor of the unit will be functional and ready to use by the end of the fall semester.