Simulator gives feel of blaze

BADGER – A group of three firefighters, weighted down with protective gear and dragging a heavy hoseline, trudged up a metal staircase and cautiously opened a door.

Gray smoke swirled out of the doorway and orange flames flickered just feet away from them. The lead firefighter opened the nozzle, directed the stream of water toward the flames and began advancing straight at them.

That scenario was repeated multiple times in Badger Tuesday evening, but there wasn’t a major fire there.

All the firefighting action was practice using a training prop called the Interior Fire Attack Simulator. That’s a trailer fitted with propane burners designed to give firefighters a chance to experience what it would be like to go inside a building to extinguish a real blaze. Badger Fire Chief Glen Westling said the training scenario is ”very close” to what firefighters would encounter in a structure fire.

The Interior Fire Attack Simulator, which is owned by the Iowa Department of Public Safety, was set up outside the Badger firehouse Tuesday evening. About 25 volunteer firefighters from Badger, Callender, Clare, Lehigh and Otho took turns working in the simulator. They had to advance into the trailer, put out fires in three locations and back out.

Tawnya Wendell, 14, was among the small crowd of people watching the training session. Her father, Badger Mayor Chris Wendell, is a volunteer firefighter in that town and she wants to follow in his footsteps.

”I know my dad puts out a lot of fires and saves a lot of lives,” she said. ”I want to save people and I want to save their homes.”

”I would like to try that because it’s a good environment to practice in,” she said, looking at the Interior Fire Attack Simulator. ”You need to deal with it like it’s real life.”

The simulator, which is kept in Ames, is moved all over the state on a nearly daily basis so that Iowa firefighters have a chance to train in it.