Boy Scouts get first-hand view of a firefighter work

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[September 10, 2014]  LINCOLN - Saturday morning the Lincoln Fire Department was visited by a group of boy scouts who were there to witness a firefighter in action. For the scouts, it was a day of learning, but also a special recruiting day for those who might be interested in becoming a scout. The event was hosted by Troop 111.

Troop leader Jason Schafer said that a while back, Fire Chief Mark Miller attended one of the scout meetings and suggested that they have this special event. Miller had said then that he had come up with an idea to build a “burn room” as a means of showing young people not only how the fire is put out, but also how it can get started and spread throughout the room.

In addition, Miller wanted to demonstrate how they extricate victims from a wrecked car.

Schafer said the troop was excited about having this opportunity. The scouts are led by adults, but part of the process of being a scout is to take a leadership role when planning such events. The young man who is at the head of the scouts this year, Jesse Watkins, worked with the leaders and other scouts to prepare for the day and incorporate a recruitment component as well.

The scouts met in the parking lot between Lincoln City Hall and the Pink Shutter at 10 a.m. The Scouts first witnessed the fire in the burn room and firefighter A.J. Weakly putting it out. They then moved over to a wrecked van and watched as Weakly used “mechanical assist” of two varieties to get doors open and clear passage for rescue workers.

When they were finished there, the Scouts went back to the burn room to learn about fire investigation from Chief Miller.

The Scouts of Troop 111 ended their day a little after noon by having lunch at the firehouse with the firefighters on duty.

In addition to this being a learning day for the scouts, it was also a training day for Weakly, who is one of the departments newest firefighters.

Schafer said this was a great event for the kids. He wanted to thank Miller and the Lincoln Fire Department as well as National Rent-to-Own for the donation of the furnishings for the burn room. In addition, he expressed appreciation to Ron’s Towing for the donation of a wrecked vehicle for the extraction exercise.

A “typical dorm-room” fire

Before setting the burn room on fire, Miller spent time with the group talking to them about what was in the room they were going to see go up in flames. He laughed and said it was a typical dorm room with papers lying about, a poster on the wall, a small sofa, a bag of corn chips spilled on the couch, a computer monitor and lamp on a small table, and a foam cup and aluminum can also on the table. In addition, there was an electric floor fan and a large plastic Santa Claus in the room. Miller lit a fire in a wastebasket between the sofa and table, and the group watched the fire progress from a small, extinguishable flame to a full blown fire engulfing the entire room.

As they watched, the chief asked the kids to pay attention to the amount of time it took for the fire to become fully involved. He also drew attention to the change of air movement in the room pointing out curtains that had been perfectly still were fluttering as the flames grew closer. In addition, he pointed out the changes in the color of the smoke as the fire moved from the waste can fire to a fully engulfed room.

During the event, Chief Miller pointed out to the kids that the smoke detector in the room went off in the very early stages of the fire, allowing plenty of time for escape.

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Miller said that most times it is the smoke and the carbon monoxide that will result in loss of life before the fire fully engulfs the room, which is why the smoke detector is such an important part of any home.

As the fire grew, there was a small explosion in the room. Miller later said that could have been the computer monitor or the base of the lamp sitting on the table.

When the room was fully engulfed, Weakly came in with an assist from Assistant Chief Steve Dahm and extinguished the fire with a 2-inch hose. When the fire was at its hilt, the smoke rolling from the room was as black as coal, and the smell and heat coming from the fire filled the entire area. As the flames were knocked down, Weakly and Dahm were nearly lost in a haze of steam coming from the water hitting a fire that could have been as hot as 1,200 degrees.

When the fire was extinguished, the kids left the scene to allow it to cool down. They moved over to watch the extrication exercise, then later returned to the fire to learn about investigation.

When they came back to the room, Miller led them through some of the things a fire investigator will look for to try and determine the cause of a fire. He had the kids stand back away from the room and look for the “V” saying the “V” will lead to the starting point. The kids were also shown the table. Miller pointed out there was more damage on one side of it than the other, and there was a void where the lamp had been. From this, they could see which side of the table was closest to the fire. They also looked at the sofa, and it was clear that one end was more heavily damaged than the other. Finally, they located what was left of the waste basket, which was plastic and completely melted down. Miller picked up the flat piece of black plastic and showed the kids he could still see the shape of the bottom of the basket to identify what it was, and he could see paper chars.

Chief Miller also pointed out the aluminum can that was now lying on the floor of the room. The can showed evidence of the fire through melting and contortion as well as some areas being burned thoroughly. Miller said it is a fact that aluminum burns at 1200 degrees, so at some point the heat of the fire had met or exceeded that temperature.


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