U of I’s Annual Fire College this Weekend

June 10, 2011

Nearly 1,000 firefighters from small and rural departments will spend the weekend sharpening their skills.

The University of Illinois' 87th Annual Fire College, the oldest continuing series of lessons and demonstrations, runs through Sunday.

Fire Service Institute Program Director Brad Bone says while many of the tactics stay the same - putting out a fire safely and affectively - there are changes in how building codes will affect how a fire spreads. Meanwhile, fire pumps with electronic or digital controls, or changes in how a breathing apparatus operates are part of a developing curriculum.

And Bone says the various lessons pay off when the firefighter returns home.

"We might get contacted by somebody a year from now, and say 'hey, I took your single family dwelling class, and three or six months later we had a fire, and it really helped me," said Bone. "We'll get news clippings from former students about events they had at home and how it helped them."

About half the 100 instructors aren't from the Institute. They include Eddie Enright, a retired Chicago firefighter. While all the exercises are important, he says there's leadership required, and the college has brought in 3 military officers to teach courses.

"There's a strong reality of the miiltary in fire service," said Enright. "The leadership, the structure. The tradition, the duty, the pride. And we get that correlation and try to get people the reality - you know, the importance of leadership. And how do you get people in the military - how do you get them to cross the perimeter, and follow you, and get that trust in fate. Same in the fire service."

Instructors say they're still hoping to add structures for demonstrations in code enforcement. And the U of I is securing new land so it can conduct drills with flammable liquid burns, in an where they won't disturb nearby residents and businesses. Bone says while local budgets have really impacted hiring in local fire departments, he says state finances haven't hurt the fire institute.

A free open house and demonstration runs from 7-30 to 9 Friday night at the Institute, located at 11 Gerty Drive in Champaign.

(Photo by Jeff Bossert/WILL)

Story source: WILL