Shifting Reality: Columbus Firefighters Train In Simulator To Handle All Environments

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UPDATED: Saturday June 7, 2014 9:32 AM

Next week, the 101st City of Columbus Division of Fire recruit class will start their training, which will include a new fire simulation tool that’s sure to give recruits a potentially lifesaving reality check.

Columbus Division of Fire Captain Jim Sancin says normal fire training has always used the same building, making it easy for recruits to get to know the layout.  “On this one, it's never going to be the same layout.”

Sancin and his recruit training team have taken the shells of three shipping containers and transformed them into fire simulation tool aimed at teaching, testing and re-testing new recruits on skills vital to fighting fires and saving lives.

“We (want to) give them a high level of confidence to show them that the training will pay off; helping with their skills set so they're prepared for anything,” says firefighter Henry Sexton.

Anything, including the various floor plans of the homes they'll be called to rush into at any time of the day or night.  Trainers put in adjustable walls and dreamed up more than 30 floor plans, since firefighters never know what situations they'll face at a scene.

Lt. Mark Mattox says recruits will never know what to expect.  "They come in a room, make a right hand search, it'll be a kitchen, next time they make a right search, might be a wall there next time, it might be a bathroom, might be a bedroom."

The training simulator also includes what's called a confidence maze.  Recruits get an introduction to wearing a mask, oxygen and having limited or zero visibility.   

Mattox says the goal of the training is aimed at allowing firefighters to be prepared to handle any situation.

Columbus firefighters built the simulator themselves at a cost of $15,000 - a fraction of the nearly $80,000 it takes to buy one.  Fire departments outside the city are also allowed to use the simulator to train their teams.

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