On a live fire training exercise, I was assisting a lead instructor in setting up a warehouse burn. Concrete building, piles of pallets, the usual drill…and of course all the pallets were outside. I used that as an excuse to leave off my SCBA while running burn material up and down stairs and into the warehouse area. The captain started burning the piles of pallets inside while I was chugging more to the burn rooms, so I got a good dose of smoke before the exercise even started. I donned my SCBA for the drill, but in the middle of the evolution, while leading young firefighters through a search drill, I almost became a live “hose dummy” and had to evac.
Controlled environment or not, a live burn means live smoke and heat. I should have been wearing my SCBA before the kindling got lit…I know better. The accumulation of smoke didn’t strike me until several minutes later, and I nearly passed out, in the middle of a drill. What if I had been on a roof, or needed to assist one of my young firefighters with an emergency of their own? I got lucky.