On April 1, 2023, volunteer firefighters from the Ashburn Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department (AVFRD) participated in a training burn at the Loudoun County Fire Training Center in Leesburg, Virginia.  This was their first AVFRD training burn since 2018. The rigorous training included seven active burns – meant to simulate house and apartment fires – over six hours.  All of our volunteers without their firefighter certificates must attend fire school. Still, many of our volunteers, have not had the opportunity to put those skills to the test after graduation since the construction in Ashburn is newer. The last training burn AVFRD held was in 2018 and since then, there has been a natural turnover of volunteers so it was time.

This hands-on exercise included many firefighters, a command center, inside personnel to review the performance, two engines, one tower truck, and two ambulances, all led and supported by volunteers.  Firefighters were directed through pre-planned training exercises to include fire suppression and the rescue of “victims” trapped inside.

The goal of this training was to allow volunteer firefighters to practice skills in a controlled environment and identify areas for additional training opportunities.  With the new construction in Loudoun County, homes can easily collapse during a fire injuring any fighters inside.  For many of the volunteers, they have not had the opportunity to fight a real house fire so the academy provides a more stable environment in which to conduct training.

At one point during the training, gauges indicated the temperature inside the building exceeded 1,500 degrees. During the training, oxygen tanks were replenished as needed, depending on the exertion of the firefighter. It’s not uncommon for a firefighter to need replenishment of their oxygen tank in less than 30 minutes in such extreme circumstances.

Before the training, all firefighters were required to go to rehab (fire rehabilitation operations) to establish baseline vitals taken by the EMTs (also volunteers from AVFRD) on site.  This is designed to ensure that the physical and mental well-being of the firefighters operating at the scene of an emergency or in this case, a training exercise, don’t deteriorate to the point where it affects the safety of themselves or any other firefighter.  Ongoing monitoring of vital signs was conducted on each firefighter regularly to ensure they were still medically fit to continue the training. “Fighting a fire is a strenuous activity and we want to ensure that we are not only teaching proper methods of fire suppression but also ensuring our people are safe while we do it,” said Captain David Holtz, Training Officer for the AVFRD and the person in charge of putting together the training plan for the day.

The leadership of AVFRD considered the day a success as it allowed the practical application of previously-learned skills and showcased opportunities for additional instruction and practice opportunities for members of AVFRD. The AVFRD will conduct another training burn on April 29th and build upon what was learned earlier this month. Two more training burns will be scheduled in the fall.  Captain Holtz, a member of AVFRD since 2009, says he has “a passion” for this job and invites others to explore becoming a volunteer as well.

If you are interested in learning how you can join AVFRD, please visit www.ashburnfirerescue.org/go/volunteer.