Up in smoke: Local firefighters participate in flashover simulations

Temperatures inside the simulation reached over 1,000 degrees

A group of firefighters exit the flashover simulator during Saturday's training at JFK Elementary in Spring Valley.

While rain and cooler weather hit the Illinois Valley early Saturday morning, things were heating up for more than 50 local firefighters from 11 area fire departments.

Spring Valley Fire Department played host to a flashover training session that took place at JFK Elementary School in Spring Valley.

Many departments from the Northern Bureau County Firefighters Association took part in the crucial training, including Spring Valley, Ladd, Hennepin, Granville and Standard.

A flashover occurs when a room reaches a high temperature where everything in it ignites, including the smoke itself. Temperatures for a flashover can exceed 1,000 degrees.

“We want to show the guys how to prevent a flashover,” Spring Valley Fire Chief Todd Bogatitus said. “It’s very important training.”

The training was put on through Sauk Valley Community College and was designed to simulate the conditions of a flashover fire inside of a semi-trailer.

“They have a small flashover inside,” Bogatitus said. “They’ll be in the smoke inside the trailer and see the temperature increase from the beginning stage of the fire to right before the flashover.”

Bogatitus said that outside of the control environment, firefighters have very little time to prevent flashovers and to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

“Knowing when to and how to control a flashover before somebody gets burned is crucial,” Bogatitus said. “When it happens you have split seconds to make a decision on how to prevent it before firefighters can get burned even with the protective gear on.”

Saturday’s training included four separate burns with about 10 firefighters completing the training at a time.

Spring Valley Firefighter Matt Eilers, who was part of the day’s first burn, mentioned that he observed the temperature in the simulation reach a high of 1,028 degrees.

“It was hot,” Eilers said. “You can’t see anything. The smoke rolls down and is pitch black and then all of a sudden you see the fire. You can see the glow start to get bigger and bigger and then the fire shoots across your head all the way behind you.”

The operators controlled the airflow to the simulator through the doors located on the side as participants were seated on the ground, facing forward, as a flashover formed in front of them.

This training previously was completed in Spring Valley in 2015 and was put on under the direction of instructors from the Blackhawk Firefighters Association through SVCC.

Local Emergency Medical Services were on hand to check the vitals of the firefighters entering and leaving the simulator to ensure everyone’s safety.

While the training is very intense, with firefighters having to deal with heavy amounts of smoke and extremely high heats, Bogatitus stated that he believes all firefighters should be exposed to this type of training in their careers to prepare them for events that may occur outside of a simulation.