Gulfport Firefighters Stage Training Fire

Gulfport firefighters battled a stubborn blaze near the downtown area Thursday.

The fire department torched a vacant house for the purposes of a training exercise. The drill was especially aimed at new recruits. Those are the firefighters who've been with the department for less than a year.

The controlled burn of a vacant house gives these rookies some much needed experience with fire.

"Now when you go in there, knock it down. Don't drench it. Knock it down and we'll tell you when that's enough," yelled one training officer, as he directed a team of rookies.

While an attack team prepared to move in, a team of firefighters turned fire starters torched the inside of the vacant house.

"I'm not going to be doing a whole lot of work on the hose line. I'm going to be talking on the radio and everything," said one veteran firefighter, working outside the burning house.

Teams take turns entering the burning house. Inside, the heat and emotions are intense.

"Move in, move in! Get down, up above you. Power cone up above you! Open it up," shouted one team leader, as his men hosed down a hot spot.

"The purpose of this training exercise is to take new recruits, new cadets into an environment that they're not familiar with, with more experienced, seasoned firefighters, lieutenants and senior engineers. And show them aspects of what fire does," said veteran firefighter, Greg Griffin.

Fire is unpredictable. Recruits understand that after taking a turn inside the burning house.

"Get down!! Get down on your knees," shouted one veteran, as he directed an attack crew of recruits.

Blake Smith is one of the firemen rookies.

"You go in, it's real dark. You hear popping and cracking. It's real hard to find the fire. Then you see a glow. You know you're there when you see the glow," Smith explained.

Firefighters learn flexibility. An unexpected flare up in the attic prompted a retreat from the roof attack.

"We had some fire get into the attic, which wasn't planned. But we got control of it, pulled down the ceiling and got it under control before it started burning through the rest of the attic," said Griffin.

Chief Pat Sullivan urged his firefighters to adapt to the situation.

"You see how things were moving in there. Be on your toes. Be ready to move. Be ready to change directions in a second," he instructed.

More than three dozen firefighters participated in the exercise. The training fire also helped improve the neighborhood by getting rid of a vacant house that had become popular spot for vagrants.