Firefighters from all over Person County and as far away as Tennessee were on hand in Timberlake Saturday to take part in a training exercise that could move area fire departments along in their efforts to achieve lower insurance ratings.
The live training involved setting fires in an old, abandoned home adjacent to the Timberlake fire station and giving teams of firefighters the chance to extinguish the fires.
Along the way, Timberlake Fire Chief Jason Fletcher said, firefighters learned about the nature of fire, how it spreads, how it reacts to water and ventilation and, most importantly he said, how to communicate with each other when they are battling a real blaze.
“This is a team-building exercise. That’s the real thing. You’ve got to communicate with the person in front of you, or behind you. You’ve got to communicate with command staff on the scene,” Fletcher said.
Firefighters were assigned to teams of four or five members each, often from different departments, and given tasks to complete. While some were inside the house studying fire and dousing flames, others were busy moving equipment outside the house, unloading water from tankers or manning backup lines.
Fletcher said one of the primary goals of the training exercise is to give younger firefighters a chance to improve their skills.
“We put younger firefighters on teams with some of our veteran firefighters and it gives them a chance to help the newer ones learn more,” Fletcher said.
The training is also required for firefighters trying to earn their Class 1 and Class 2 certifications.
It also helps all the participating departments in the county-wide quest to improve insurance ratings, part of an agreement fire departments made when Person County commissioners agreed to pump hundreds of thousands of dollars of new money into the county’s eight volunteer fire departments.
“We know there are a lot of eyes watching what we do. The county has given us all this money and they’ve kind of put the ball in our court. We have to do something to improve those ISO ratings and this helps us with that,” Fletcher said.
While the work the firefighters were doing was serious, Fletcher said the opportunity to spend time with other firefighters also helps build relationships and rapport among departments.
“It’s a networking opportunity for sure. You never know when you might need something and you remember meeting someone from another department who can help you out. The fire service is like that,” Fletcher said.
Participating departments on Saturday included Timberlake, Roxboro, Hurdle Mills, Moriah, Allensville, Semora, Leasburg, Bahama and Durham. Person County Rescue was also on hand to help man the rehab site, which is required when fire departments undertake live fire training.