LORDS VALLEY - Volunteers from regional fire departments recently spent their weekend, learning about flashover fires at the Pike County Training Center.
    Offered by the Pennsylvania State Fire Academy, the training was done through the Academy on the Road training program, said Tim Knapp the training director at the Center in Lords Valley. Through the program, adjunct instructors teach emergency services free of charge to fire and rescue organizations. Knapp said at the Center, it is the only flashover simulator training in the state.  Companies from throughout the region participated in the training, which Knapp said shows the value of the simulator.
    Sitting in the simulator, which has two sections, the firefighters observed the fire from the lower area. In the upper level, using materials that were similar to ply wood that gave off gases and a 55 gallon drum, the fire was controlled in the drum. Walt Schneider, a state fire instructor for the state fire academy explained that when the gases collected, the smoke eventually ignited and created the flashover. By sitting below the floor line in the lower section, the firefighters were able to observe what was happening and learn about conditions they need to be aware of.
    In the field, Schneider said firefighters can see the beginning process and respond accordingly. The fire that the volunteers observed last weekend, was controlled and so Schneider said what they saw lasted longer than the traditional structural burn session.
    Saturday morning, the volunteers received a classroom lesson and the rest of the training; Schneider said was designed so the students could get oriented to what will happen. After going over their gear, the students went through a self-contained breathing apparatus inspection, which was followed by a safety briefing.
    All of the students were experienced firefighters who chose to take the advanced training. Schneider said the flashover training is often the first time firefighters see the “phenomena.” When a flashover occurs, Schneider said everything in the room will ignite.
    With the conservation of energy awareness that occurred in the 1970’s, Schneider said homes are better insulated then they were years ago and because there is a lack of air ventilation fires are ventilation starved rather than fuel starved. Years ago, he said fires were fuel starved and if air was introduced temperatures decreased. Whereas today, with extreme temperatures and everything in a room igniting the “phenomena” occurs faster. Very few people, he said survive a flashover, unless perhaps they are within five feet of an exit.
    At the training, from inside the simulator the firemen were controlling the doors which controlled the air movement. When the doors closed the heat built up and by controlling that, Schneider said the smoke and unburned fuel collected.
    In modern structures, Schneider said fuel is often greater because of what material items like furniture are made of. Foams that make furniture more comfortable and modern technologies like flat screen televisions are made of materials that make fires more intense and cause fires that flashover faster, he said.
    Because flashovers are more frequent, Schneider said it is essential that firefighters train appropriately.
    Only the second women to go through the flashover training at the Pike County simulator, a modest Jeanne Feakins from the Dingmans Fire Company said watching the flashovers was, “pretty hot.” Feakins said she decided to participate in the training because it was different and important because flashovers do occur.
    Chris Hastings, also from Dingmans said watching the flashover was very hot and “definitely an experience.” The training, Hastings said is good because it gave the firemen a better understanding of how their equipment is used for such instances. Seeing a flashover occur, Hastings said was “pretty awesome.” Since most firefighters don’t survive flashovers, Hastings said to sit and see several flashovers occur it brought a, “different reality to fire.”