The University of Missouri Extension Fire and Rescue Training Institute (MU FRTI) recently unveiled its new Fire Cause Determination Mobile Trainer during the 80th Annual Summer Fire School. The new mobile trainer was purchased with funding provided by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security/FEMA's Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program - Fire Prevention and Safety Grant.
A study conducted by MU FRTI and the University's Office of Social & Economic Data Analysis (OSEDA) identified that nearly half of the state's fire service personnel do not have basic training in fire cause determination, arson awareness, and scene preservation. Without appropriately trained firefighters to initially examine the fire scene, fire departments cannot adequately determine the origin and source of the fire. Ultimately fire cause determination is essential in identifying a community's fire risk and the necessary prevention techniques that will be needed as part of an overall public fire education program.
The Institute pursued grant funding to develop a fire cause determination course that includes a hands-on element using a mobile training unit to provide realistic training conditions. The training course and fire trailer will travel throughout the state of Missouri to provide first responders with realistic training in fire cause determination, arson awareness, investigation, and prevention.
The Fire Cause Determination Trainer has three rooms that can be set up to simulate a variety of commercial or residential settings. Under controlled conditions, these rooms can be ignited and burned to accurately reproduce a variety of fire scenarios. Fire causes from accidental ignition sources to intentionally-set fires can be replicated. Each room is equipped with electronic sensors to record temperatures of the floor, middle, and ceiling throughout the fire, and special cameras to monitor and record the growth and spread of the fire. Firefighters utilizing the knowledge gained in the classroom portion of the course will then explore and analyze the fire room to determine fire cause and origin with the guidance of experienced instructors. The trainer is built on a tractor trailer frame and meets DOT highway regulations so that it can be transported throughout the state. Once the unit arrives at a training location it takes about 30 minutes to set up and be ready for class. Between classes, the unit returns to its home base at the Institute in Columbia, MO, for resetting.
MU FRTI Director, David Hedrick, said: "the Fire and Rescue Training Institute exemplifies the mission of MU Extension, taking education to the people. This is one of the many programs that the Institute makes available at the local level throughout the state. Our ultimate goal is to develop safer firefighters, safer citizens, and safer communities throughout Missouri."
The initial grant provided for the procurement of the trainer and related equipment, as well as initial training classes in the state. The preliminary training with the unit will be free to emergency service personnel. MU FRTI is currently scheduling classes utilizing the trainer.