This week was the second of 12 in Firefighter 1 and 2 courses being taught at local fire departments.
Knoxville Fire Chief Jim Mitchell said that 22 firefighting students from Marion County are meeting twice a week to receive the training. A handful of them are earning their Firefighter 2 training.
The classes are part of the Marion County Academy. Classes will be rotated through the other fire departments in the county so that eventually, each department will host a class. This rotation also provides firefighters the opportunity to get to know their colleagues in Marion County and become more familiar with each department.
Mitchell believes this situation is a “win-win.” Not only are the firefighters receiving training, it is improving relationships among departments.
While the State of Iowa mandates specific topics for firefighter training to cover, Firefighter 1 certification is not required by the State. The KFD does require its members to certify as Firefighter 1 and take EMT basic training before being allowed to respond in an emergency.
Firefighter training has become more intense since Mitchell took his first training, nearly 30 years ago. This is because fires have also changed.
In a study by the National Institute of Safety and Technology, two rooms were filled with furniture. One contained items and materials used over 20 years ago. The other was furnished with modern furnishings and materials. Both were set on fire.
The modern-day room reached a flashover in three minutes and 43 seconds. The older room took 28 minutes to flash.
“What we’re losing is time,” Mitchell said. “The fire grows way faster today.”
Mitchell said that part of the reason fires are becoming more dangerous is because construction materials have become lighter. Today’s firefighters do less rooftop firefighting compared to the past, because of this. Floor joists in most of today’s construction projects are made of pressed wood, which burns through faster than those used in the past.
Mitchell’s opportunities to teach and influence other firefighters has grown beyond Marion County. He is a member of a statewide organization that travels around sharing information about the best known firefighting practices. This week included a trip to the Aplington-Parkersburg area.