Gulfport Firefighters Burning Down The House

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- A burning house on John Ross Road kept Gulfport firefighters busy for hours Thursday morning.They used the vacant structure as a training opportunity.

The controlled burn offered a near perfect drill. Stubborn flames test firefighting skills. And this is as real as it gets.

"Safety to operations," the radio crackled.

"This kind of practice is very critical," said training coordinator Tony Knight, "Just so they know what they're doing and they've done this before when they get on the scene of a real fire."

The burn is managed as best it can be to allow for teaching opportunities and rookie mistakes. But even a controlled burn can boost adrenaline at times.

Firemen shudder when the glass of a picture window suddenly explodes from the heat and fumes.

Firefighters in training respond to various scenarios.

"We have a downed fireman. This is for training purposes only. We have a downed fireman," said the concerned but steady voice on the radio.

Veterans say this kind of practice is the best place to learn.

"For a new guy, whenever you have something like this, and he's not fought any before, this is as real to him as it gets. Because he's under pressure and we're pushing him. But he's getting the training he needs," said Tim Holliman.

Veteran Mike Hilley makes sure rookies do it right. He taught them in the classroom.

"It's a lot better to make a mistake now where we can catch it and save it, than in a real working house fire where somebody's life might actually be on the line," says Hilley.

Hauling water to a portable tank is part of the training. Rookie drivers like Ryker Haselden are putting to practice the skills they've learned.

"Pump pressures. The volume of the water flow. Stuff like that. Just making sure the guys that are operating the hose line are safe and get a continuous supply of water," said Haselden.

"Can you advise, is there smoke through the roof yet?" said the loud radio voice.

"We train as real as we can, so when it comes time for the real deal, we're prepared," Hilley explained.

"All personnel at the house are accounted for," said the radio voice, as the smoke began to slowly clear.