About 30 students went through a “live burn” fire training in the lab, which cost $2 million to build. The lab is a part of the nearly $20 million expansion to the college’s public safety programs.
While the building’s construction was relatively inexpensive, the props for each room cost the majority of the $2 million.
The SCC Fire Simulation Lab is the first of it’s kind in Seminole County. It has three rooms to simulate real life scenarios fire fighters may encounter. Instructors can create anything from a grease fire to a rollover, which is when the flames roll across the ceiling.
The fires can be produced in individual rooms, or in the entire building at once.
Previously, the college only had a burn building, which was built in 1978.
The burn building, however, only allowed students to perform search and rescue techniques and practice hose work. Along with the construction of the lab, SCC renovated the burn building to comply with state requirements.
The new lab uses propane to make the fires. This is a safe way for instructors to control the scenarios and allows them to exactly recreate scenarios for each group of students.
Program Manager of the Fire Science Program Michael Hoening said, “We can recreate the same scenarios over and over again so each student has the same experience.”
The building also has a control room where instructors can monitor each room on computers. In addition to measuring temperature and alarm conditions, the computers measure the amounts of inert gas in the rooms to keep the students safe.
For added safety there are switches at each door to shut off the propane immediately. There are also ventilation fans, and a remote must be activated by instructors to maintain the fires.
Thursday morning students had their first training session in the new lab. Before entering the building, students were required to check their vitals and put on all of their equipment.
Instructors did a rigorous check of each student’s equipment and divided the group into four teams. After a brief walkthrough to show the features of the building, students got the hoses ready and started the training.
“We’ve waited since the beginning of the semester to do this,” said Victor Gilbert, a student in the fire science program. “It’s a lot different from reading about it in a book,” he said.
In the room designed to model a kitchen, students fought the rollover blaze and put it out quickly. This was the first time they experienced fighting a real fire. Gilbert said, “We were really feeling the heat. Our glass got all fogged up and we weren’t expecting that.”
Gilbert is a lifelong resident of Sanford who graduated from Seminole High School in 2002. After playing baseball for the college, he decided to study fire science.
“The facility is really amazing. It’s what we want to do and what we’re training for,” he said.
Gilbert described the fire science students as “adrenaline junkies” who do not like to sit in a classroom all day. He said his first training session was fun and an amazing experience for him. He graduates from the program in November.
With the new lab, students like Gilbert will have opportunity to train in real life scenarios every semester. Currently about140 fire science students are enrolled at SCC annually, but the school plans to expand the program when a new classroom opens next year.
In addition to the students, Seminole County Fire Department and Lake Mary Fire Department will use the facility to train.