Sterling Heights

New training facility better prepares firefighters for modern day house fires

What’s happening: The City of Sterling Heights recently celebrated the opening of their Dräger burn chamber, a new training facility for the city’s fire department.

Why it’s important: With changes in the materials that we use to build and furnish our homes, from using organic materials like wood and cloth to today’s more synthetic materials like composite plastics, the ways in which house fires behave have changed. One result of that change is that firefighters must now be prepared to battle house fires of a different kind altogether: the flashover.

That’s why Sterling Heights celebrated their new Dräger burn chamber with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The facility is specifically built to train firefighters in preventing, managing, and safely entering and exiting modern homes.

Fighting flashover: “Today’s room furnishings are constructed with more plastic composite material than the traditional wood and cotton we saw in the past,” says Sterling Heights Fire Chief Kevin Edmond. “These changes now cause basic room fires to increase in size and intensity very quickly. This rapid growth causes flashover, which is where the entire space is heated to the point that everything in the room catches fire at once. Considering this trend, we need to be sure our firefighters are trained in practical ways to prevent flashover and how to get out safely if it happens.”

Training days: Fire department instructors will complete two eight-hour days of instruction in flashover conditions, and all within the controlled environment of the prefabricated Dräger burn chamber. Topics to be covered include fire behavior and control, smoke and ventilation exercise, thermal imaging camera use, and more.

Safety first: “One of our key attributes in Sterling Heights is that we are a safe city. This new training unit will help keep Sterling Heights firefighters among the best in the nation,” says Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor. “Our goal is to work with the public to help prevent fires, but when they do occur, we want to make sure everyone involved emerges safe and sound – both our residents and our dedicated firefighters. This unit helps us achieve that goal.”

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.