A training simulator that is popular with Rockland County's volunteer firefighters for its realism has been temporarily closed following an accident in which a group of Nyack firefighters received minor burns.
Rockland Fire and Emergency Services Director Gordon Wren Jr. said a preliminary review of Sunday's incident at the Fire Training Center in Pomona indicates that a build up of soot in the "flashover" survival training unit may have been responsible for unexpectedly high, intense heat that caused the burns.
Nyack Fire Chief James Petriello said several of his department's volunteers received minor burns around their protective face pieces during the training session in Pomona, but none of the burns were serious. He said the firefighters were examined by the Nyack fire district's physician as a precaution and none of them had to miss a day of work or school because of their injuries.
Wren said some of the protective gear worn by the firefighters was also damaged in the training exercise. He said a review of the flashover training unit is continuing, but Wren noted that he expects the unit will need power-washing of its interior and an inspection before it goes back into use.
The flashover unit, Wren said, is inherently dangerous because it does put firefighters up close to an intense fire in a confined space. To use the flashover unit, he said firefighters must wear all of their protective gear and can only enter the unit under the supervision of a trainer.
However, Wren said he believes the flashover training helps save lives and reduce injuries among Rockland County volunteer firefighters because it allows them to learn the warning signs that a fire is about to "flashover" and consume a room. Learning these sign, Wren said, gives firefighters time to escape out a door or a window in a real-life situation.
Wren explained that there are unique characteristics of fires that indicate a flashover is likely.
Rockland County began its flashover unit training program in 1994. Wren said the county training center's flashover unit is one of only a few in the region and is used by visiting firefighters from other areas who want the realistic training.