Firefighters from around the country are training in a controlled fire situation in Cleveland County on Tuesday afternoon.
The training and research project focuses on training firefighters how to stay safe during a fire. Firefighters will learn different tactics through a series of live burns.
Cameras will be linked up inside the burning structures to review how the firefighters progress in the conditions in real time. This is not about learning how to fight a fire, say officials, “it’s about how to fight it safely.”
Jeff Harkey, spokesperson for the “Kill the Flashover” project, says it’s all about learning the little things that happen during fires and seeing the reaction of firefighters in real-time situations.
“You have to get used to the fire and get used to the heat,” Harkey said.
The project is designed to not only find safe ways to fight a fire, but to identify minor mistakes that can cause major issues. Officials say the science of fire fighting is always evolving, especially with new materials in homes these days.
“The furniture, synthetics, plastics and other materials burn differently than the materials of decades ago,” said Harkey. “We’re finding that fires burn hotter and the fires burn faster and it can be difficult to survive those fires.”
Joe Starnes, who heads up the project, agreed with that assessment. “Flashover in a typical residential room is almost ten times faster than it was 40 years ago.”
Starnes, who has a son in the Charlotte Fire Department, said his goal is to find any new information that can help save lives.
The training sessions will continue on Wednesday and Thursday with the final burn scheduled for a home near Shelby that will be stacked with household items to resemble a “hoarder’s home” said Starnes. It is something, he says, that firefighters have to learn to deal with these days.
Officials will debrief trainers and students and collate all the video and review everything in the coming months. Project “Kill the Flashover” is a volunteer group. “Everyone here paid for their own expenses,” said Starnes.