WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS: LAC BRAD HANSON
Just shy of completing their Advance Trade Training, the students of the Joint Services Fire Training School face one last test… Before they can return to their stations as fully qualified fire fighters, the students must consolidate seven weeks of practical and theoretical lessons into one day
demonstrating that they have what it takes.
Their proving ground is the M&O Pacific Fire Training Facility, located on the Taranaki coastline. It was first established as a training area for crews who work on the offshore gas rigs and is used by other organisa- tions, including the NZDF to train personnel.
The site resembles an industrial garage sale. Bulky metal containers, steel tanks and other objects are laid out and arranged on a large concrete pad. Beneath each structure are mains built to feed high pressure gas and fuel outwards and upwards. When fuel meets flame the dormant structures burst into life and the entire area becomes a playground of fire.
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Upon arrival at the site, the students are immediately put to work. At first they are given a basic scenario to serve as a ‘warm up’ .
From here the scenarios get more complex and demanding. Multiple gas and fuel fires are lit and the students must work as a team and use their available equipment to vanquish the hot jets of burning liquid and flame that burst at them. On some structures the students must push the fire back inch by inch to its base, controlling and containing it within the spray cone formed by their hoses. Once there, they must manually switch the gas off below the structure, with only a small wall of water to protect them from the heat and flame.
After each scenario the instructors take time to debrief the teams, highlighting efforts that went well and areas and tips for improvement. The instructors work closely with the students as they battle each blaze and are looking for how the students react and respond to different situ-