Burn to learn, firefighters prep training ground for classes

WHITE CITY, Ore.РFirefighters with the local chapter of an arson investigator organization built small rooms over the weekend for a special training. It was all set up at Jackson County Fire District #3 in White City where on Monday they lit the rooms on fire.

Every year, the International Association of Arson Investigators holds these types of courses to help train firefighters to identify how fires start. The students won’t be showing up till Thursday but in the meantime, firefighters have to get the training ground ready.

First, they built them. Now, they burn them. Twelve small rooms built in the last four days are going up in flames.

But for all intents and purposes, it’s hands-on training for the real deal.

“Very advantageous for the student to be able to actually go through classroom times,” said Chris Elrod, a representative from the IAAI and firefighter from North Carolina. “Then be able to apply what they learned in the classroom by actually doing these make-up and these mock fires that we have in here.”

Mark Northrop, deputy fire marshal for JCD3 and a member of the local Rogue Valley chapter, is also helping to get this year’s class ready. He says each year, it’s a different scenario.

Some years it’s a car. This year they’re using homes.

“We’ll set up some common things you see in arson fires like trailers so to give the students an example of what they’ll actually see in a real arson fire or a real accidental fire,” he said.

About 80 students from across the northwest are expected for the class this Thursday and all eager to learn.

“Develop proper techniques, proper handling of evidence, processing of a fire season, all of those things come into play and that will be the bulk of what this class is,” said Elrod.

The IAAI says it holds these classes across the globe for it’s some 10,000 members. Each class still having the same goal of training the next batch of fire investigators.

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