Live fire training exercise prepares new volunteers in Leigh

Volunteer firefighters put their skills to the test during a major training exercise involving a dramatic blaze at a house fire on Leigh Road.

Sixteen firefighters from four stations led by the Leigh Volunteer Fire Brigade performed a controlled burn of a house on Leigh Road, between Ti Point and Mathesons Bay, last week.

The house was scheduled for demolition and the landowner gave permission to the fire service to burn it down as a training exercise.

Several scenarios were set up in different rooms to give new and experienced firefighters the chance to improve their technique and safety knowledge.

For the controlled burn, it took two hours from when the flame was lit for the house to be reduced to charred ash, with firefighters dampening the blaze where necessary.

But it took only 15 minutes for the lounge room to become an inferno after a couch was ignited to start the blaze.

Incident controller Tony Searle said today’s synthetic furniture had changed firefighting because of how quickly it burned, especially couches which he likens to “solid petroleum”. A burning couch gives off 220 megawatts of energy or the equivalent of 100 bar heaters, he said.

After each fire, the firefighters’ suits are sent away to be professionally cleaned because of the carcinogens that are deposited from the soot of a modern house fire.

“It can take two years from when a volunteer joins the fire service until they enter an actual house fire because of the training involved, but exercises like this controlled burn help to make sure they are ready when the real thing happens,” Tony said.

In addition to Leigh, firefighters participating in the exercise came from the Warkworth, Mahurangi East and Matakana volunteer brigades.

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