Hospice donates goods to help firefighter training

A hospice in Stafford has donated unsold furniture and household items to assist firefighters with their incident training.

Representatives from the Katharine House Hospice visited Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s headquarters in Pirehill to donate a number of unsold items - including sofas, lampshades, tables, chairs, mattresses and kitchen appliances.

The items will be assembled inside the Service’s smokehouse training facility - helping to replicate the inside of a residential flat during a serious house fire.

During training, the facility is filled with synthetic smoke to replicate the disorientating effects of a house fire. Firefighters are then trained to search effectively without becoming lost and disoriented.

The layout within the smokehouse is easily changeable too and helps to keep firefighters on their toes as they experience different orientations of fixtures and fittings, as seen below.

The furniture they come across is invaluable in training to enhance their landmarking skills – a technique used to ensure crews can effectively pinpoint areas within the building and plan escape routes.

Learning and Development Trainer Phil Mulligan said: “These household items are vital for us to accurately replicate real-world scenarios in our training.

“In poor visibility, our firefighters will join together and search the property for the source of fire and for any people who need help.

“One of the firefighters will keep contact with the wall for orientation and the other team member will spread out. They both sweep with their arms and legs and feel their surroundings for any potential casualties.

“Crucially, they are trained to landmark particular objects and areas which can then be used as reference points.

“Having these items means that our firefighters can develop this skill and use it in a real-world scenario, should they need to rescue an injured person or find an exit route through a smoke-logged building.

“On behalf of the Service, I’d like to thank Katharine House for their continued support in keeping our communities safe.”

Mary Worsdale, of Katharine House Hospice, said: “Contributing furniture and household items for firefighter training scenarios is a fantastic use of unsold items from our stores.

“We are extremely pleased to be working with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, and supporting their training and community safety initiatives.”

Now, the Service hopes to continue driving their learning and development facilities by creating a variety of different scenarios – including set-ups for residential, industrial and business fires.

Donations like these allow the Service to replicate real-world environments.

Phil said: “Thanks to Katharine House Hospice, we can now accurately replicate the environment of a one-bedroom flat, but we are still continuing to assemble scenarios which address different types of fires.

“We are looking at the possibility of assembling a furniture store within one of our training facilities at HQ, and potentially an industrial warehouse.

“Inside this facility, we teach our firefighters the importance of tactical ventilation, how to deal with different scenarios and the best methods of extinguishing severe industrial and business fires within a challenging environment.”

Temperatures inside this facility can reach over 600 degrees Celsius. Trainers ignite wood which is placed inside steel cribs. They also ignite bins of dampened straw to create heat and smoke, aimed at testing the crews’ ability to fight fires, locate people in distress and effectively ventilate the building.

Phil added: “By continuing to develop our facilities and replicate a variety of incidents, we are better preparing our firefighters to face any eventuality in the real world and ensure our communities are thoroughly protected.”

To see a video of the inside of our smokehouse during a training scenario, visit: Residents urged to plan house fire exit routes (staffordshirefire.gov.uk)

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