UNION, NJ – Union’s newest Fire Department recruits received real world training last week at their first ‘live burn’, where they faced a building fire at the Union County Fire Training Academy in Linden. 

“This live burn portion of the recruits’ training enables them to get into some live situations with an active fire with some of our more seasoned veterans firefighters who really show them the way and share their experience and knowledge,” said Union Fire Chief Mike Scanio.                                                                                           

As a team, led by Lt. Michael Davitt who runs the Union Fire Department's training program, the five recruits and veteran off-duty Union firefighters reviewed the impending fire scene beforehand by reviewing assignments, instructions for each floor of the dwelling, and safety guidelines.  Recruits and firefighters walked through the structure in advance in preparation for the live burn.  Barrels of hay was set on fire for a “real smoke, real heat, real fire” scenario.  Most other fire training structures use a controlled gas fire, Scanio said.

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When the “call” was received, firefighters jumped into action by first forcibly breaking through a door simulator.  Hose lines were stretched, firefighters grabbed ladders, ascended to the roof of the structure where they used an axe to cut a hole into the ‘roof’ and the fire was extinguished.

Davitt said the building has lots of turns which are tricky to navigate through smoke. The ‘fire’ was extinguished within 15 minutes. Davitt said the recruits have been through eight weeks of classroom learning based on curriculum provided by the State, which outlines what material they need to learn before the live burns.   

Since the beginning of February, according to Davitt, the recruits have had physical training every morning at Union High School.  The live burn portion of the training is about 2 ½ weeks, after which the recruits will go to EMT school.  “They go through some rigorous training and put in a lot of work to earn their spot with our fire department.”

After the fire was extinguished, recruits and firefighters reviewed the scenario for what went right and what could possibly be improved.  “Everyone pitches in,” Davitt said.  “You all have to watch each other up there.”  Scanio added, “even if it’s not your job to stretch the hose line -- if you see a kink in the line, you fix it.  It’s everyone’s responsibility to get that hose line in place.” 

“As part of our continued commitment to public safety, we attended the live burn training session for our new Union Fire Department recruits,” said Committeeman and Fire Commissioner Manuel Figueiredo.  “They go through five months of training to prepare for the tough job of responding to the safety of our residents at a moment's notice.”

Scanio said these five recruits are replacing firefighters who recently left due to retirement.  He said ideally the recruits will be on duty beginning June 1.