Where there's smoke, there's either Brookfield or New Berlin firefighters
Personnel from both cities hold training exercise as part of border coverage agreement
New Berlin — Firefighters intentionally setting a home on fire may sound like an unusual situation, but it was completely normal for the cities of Brookfield and New Berlin fire departments during a live training this month.
The departments teamed up to practice various firefighting attacks together as part of existing joint efforts between the two departments.
Brookfield has a fairly new fire department right on the edge of the Brookfield and New Berlin border at Greenfield Avenue and Calhoun Road. When emergency calls are received from either side of the border, units are automatically dispatched by the Computer Aided Dispatch and Mutual Aid Box Alarm System. This means that Brookfield fire units could respond to a fire in New Berlin or vice versa, with New Berlin having a fire station near another city border at Sunnyslope Road and Greenfield Avenue.
"People don't care where help is coming from, as long as help arrives," Brookfield Fire Chief Charlie Myers said.
The dual training is a team building opportunity for both departments and is extremely rare since finding a vacant home and a neighborhood safe for live training is difficult.
"It's still realistic and allows the firefighters to get to know each other," New Berlin Fire Chief Lloyd Bertram said.
Controlling the burn
Crews arrived at 9 a.m. to practice at a home, 16628 W. Addison Street, located in a flood plain and purchased by New Berlin using funds from a flood control grant.
In preparation for the live training, a permit was issued from the Department of Natural Resources, the home was treated for asbestos abatement, and firefighters walked through the home and studied the floor plan.
"Live training can be dangerous," Myers said. "We're also responsible for corrections that need to made in the home, including holes in the wall or stairway, so the fire doesn't spread elsewhere. Everything has to be done safely."
The firefighters practiced according to National Fire Protection Association standards on live training evolutions. They started by labeling access points outside of the home at every window and room.
Crews set a total of five fires, one in each bedroom, the bathroom and kitchen. Using a crib made of wooden pallets and hay, firefighters set the controlled flames in each room and crews and back-up crews wait for it to ignite before practicing evolutions. Back-up safety crews pay attention inside and outside to ensure the training runs smoothly.
A transition attack was used on one of the bedroom fires, where firefighters address the fire from outside of the house before going inside.
"A transition attack controls fires and reduces heat," Myers said.
Crews also practiced hydraulic ventilation, with firefighters shooting a steady flow of water through a window from inside of the house for several minutes.
"The water grabs the air and smoke and pushes it outside as it flows out of the window," Myers explained.
When the smoke changes color from black to white, firefighters know they've hit the fire.
Bob Dake watched the training from his driveway, next door to vacant home used in the live training.
"I'm just making sure they put the fires out when they are done," Dake joked. "I'm OK with this and glad to see them doing it. If there was a fire, I wouldn't care which department they are from, as long as they know how to put it out."
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