Caledonia firefighters working in their new indoor fire training facility.
CALEDONIA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) -- Training is a key part of the job for firefighters -- the more they do it, the better the chances they have of saving lives and property.
Members of the Caledonia Fire Department cut the ribbon Wednesday on their new indoor training house, which they say will make them faster and better at their jobs.
The 1,400 square foot, two story training house allows them to train year-round. The building is one of two full-scale training houses in West Michigan.
When the firefighters normally go inside a house fire, they never know what it will be like inside. With Caledonia's new structure, though, the crews can prepare for almost anything.
"This is going to provide the best training possible," says Chief Brian Bennett.
Chief Bennett's crews are able to move around inside a building with many of the features of a normal house -- including furniture. They can also break doors and windows for ventilation. They were actions the chief's crews could only simulate doing in the past.
"You just put a ladder up in a truck bay," he says. "Maybe if we had a vacant house in the township somewhere that we could use."
The training house allows the firefighters to do everythign short of actually working with a live fire with hoses and water.
Firefighter Tony Bennett says the biggest benefit he sees in the new structure is in helping them learn to find victims more quickly in the middle of heavy smoke.
"Search and rescue," says the firefighter. "It's not something every department gets to do. Hopefully we never have to do it, but we just want to train the best we can be when the time comes."
Chief Brian Bennett says a larger department like Grand Rapids responds to more calls, so its firefighters have the opportunity for more live training. Smaller departments like Caledonia only tackle a few house fires a year. He says repetition in training is key to success.
"The safer we can be, the quicker we can operate, the better the guys are comfortable with, and the confidence they have," says the chief. "They'll be able to move a lot swifter."
The money for the Caledonia Fire Department's training house came from a $5,000 grant from the Michigan Township Participation Plan.