SWFL firefighters using a donated home for specialized situations training

Published: December 13, 2021 5:11 PM EST
Updated: December 13, 2021 5:18 PM EST

Southwest Florida firefighters are getting some hands-on training in a real but controlled house fire situation. On Monday, the Iona McGregor Fire District trained in a house donated to them.

Smoke filled the house so the crews could navigate different search and rescue scenarios.

The firefighters cut through roofs, smashed windows and rushed into smoke-filled rooms. Iona fire crews used real-life situations to brush up on their skills to keep you safe.

Division Chief of Training and Special Operations, John Wisdom, said, “normally we train at a tower that everyone is familiar with, and we train at a location that everyone is familiar with. Nobody is familiar with this house because no one has been to this house before.”

Firefighters work in harsh conditions surrounded by smoke and flames, and they do it while wearing gear that weighs more than 55 pounds.

That’s why the department says it’s essential for them to train in real-life situations like the ones they used on Monday.

The newest trained member is firefighter Ashlee Visnic. “There’s only so many different variables that you can set up to make it unpredictable when you’re doing the training, so getting buildings like this where we have no idea what’s inside, that’s really realistic because just by the outside of a house, you never know what you’re going to get when you get inside,” said Visnic.

She said the most critical part of this training was communication. “The slightest bit of miscommunication can send things in a completely wrong direction.”

It is a unique and creative opportunity for firefighters to strengthen their skills. The firefighters who have passed the training say it helps cut response times to save those in need.