THE HOTBOXES: Newly acquired shipping containers will help fire department expand its training scenarios

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Greenfield firefighter Aaron Paul looks over the recently acquired containers, for which the city paid $24,360. The containers make ideal training spaces because their metallic construction is impervious to flames.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD — A casual observer would probably look at the backside of the fire station on the north side of Greenfield and see a stack of shipping containers. A closer look, however, shows the structures are part of the latest in state-of-the-art fire training.

The large metal containers — which can be repeatedly used for all manner of firefighter instruction — have been part of the Greenfield Fire Territory’s training center for a while. Now, the department is working on the second phase of the center and has added five containers at a cost of $24,360.

Four of the containers are being turned into a two story residence with a full walkout basement. That includes dividing the space to simulate rooms in a real house

“With a young department and few structure fires a year, this is a facility that we need to make sure we are training to respond to working fires with proficiency,” said Brian Lott, chief of the fire territory.

“This is just another tool in our tool box for us to become better at what we do,” Lott said.

The department is also building a flashover chamber in one of the containers to show the firefighters what to look for when entering a burning structure. Flashovers, which occur when all the combustible material in a room erupts in flames at the same time, are especially dangerous.

“We are also working on some local and statewide grants for more equipment for the training center as well,” Lott said.

The basement simulator will also allow for specialized scenarios that otherwise would be hard to recreate.

“There was just no way beforehand to be able to train on a basement fire without physically going to a house that had a basement, but with these containers, now we can,” said Corey Breese, the fire territory’s public information officer.

Firefighters can also build and remove walls inside the containers, changing things up to help keep training fresh. The structures are nearly indestructible, making them ideal for a fire training base.

“Anytime we get a chance to get something like these containers that is reusable over and over again and has a long shelf life is something we’re going to invest in,” Breese said.

The department acquired the containers about a year ago and have been preparing them and getting them ready for training.

“There is still a lot of work being done on them,” Breese said.

Local firefighters are doing all the work on the containers to keep the costs down. Once finished, hopefully by early summer, crews can begin training inside the structures.

“We’re still cutting doors and setting roofs, and that’s difficult to do in the winter,” Breese said.

With the addition of the new containers, the department now has a three-story training structure in addition to the basement simulator and the flashover chamber.

The department is working on building one of the best training sites in the state, and the addition of the five containers will really help, Breese said.

Breese noted participants in the Fire Department Instructors Conference, held each spring in Indianapolis, typically visit the Greenfield training facility. They come from fire departments all over the country.

“As soon as they are done training here, they re-book so they can come back again,” Breese said.

The department also opens the training center to any county fire departments wanting to get specialized training. Breese suspects more may be interested in using the facility once the five new containers are outfitted and ready to go.