Itemizer-Observer staff report

DALLAS — Last week in Dallas, a car was set on fire for a good cause: Firefighter training.

The car was actually a prop from the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, which made a stop in Dallas so that more than 30 firefighters, volunteer and paid, could practice putting out a car fire.

DPSST Director Eriks Gabliks said battling vehicle fires is complicated by evolving technology used in modern cars.

“In addition to that standard flammable liquids in fuel, engine lubricants and tires, there are battery-operated cars and new materials that increase the flame intensity and increased smoke production,” Gabliks said. “These changes require DPSST’s Fire Service Training team to continually create new techniques and advancements for any potential vehicle fires. The vehicle fire training simulator that was brought to Dallas provides DPSST the ability to deliver hands-on, realistic, training to career and volunteer firefighters to repeatedly test and perfect the skills they need to serve Oregonians.”

The car fire prop allows for firefighter training in a safe and controlled environment with a multitude of training objectives for participants and instructors. In addition, it uses propane as a fuel source which allows the training to be offered in a more environmentally friendly manner.

Live fire training is a critical part of getting firefighters ready for what they will face in field. However, opportunities for “burn to learn” in the traditional sense — with condemned buildings and old cars — are increasingly rare.

“Environmental and neighborhood concerns, building materials, and a variety of other safety considerations have changed this so the use of safe props is the way to go,” Gabliks said.

The new prop was paid for with funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.  DPSST received two props. One is based in Salem and is used to support career and volunteer firefighter training west of the Cascades. The other is based in Redmond and supports training needs on the east side of the state.

DPSST has more than a dozen mobile props that enable firefighters to receive realistic hands-on training. DPSST’s fire training is offered free of charge to all fire agencies in Oregon because of funding through the State’s Fire Insurance Premium Tax.

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