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New high-tech Realistic Fire Training centre for Ashford Fire Station

Kent Fire and Rescue Service deliver services to more than 1.6 million people in Kent and Medway
A new Realistic Fire Training (RFT) unit for firefighters is to be officially opened next week
A new state-of-the-art training facility for firefighters is to be officially opened next week (17 November) at Ashford Fire Station

Crews using the Realistic Fire Training (RFT) unit, in Ashford, are exposed to the real conditions they face during a blaze, otherwise only experienced at genuine incidents.

The new facility consists of a tower with a three-storey house attached, simulating the modern day home and its interior.

It allows firefighters to raise internal temperatures up to a staggering 500°C and safety systems have been installed to allow trainers to fully manage and control tests and exercises. Temperature monitoring is achieved by internal sensors linked to a central fire control panel ensuring that the working conditions for firefighters are safe.

Fast smoke delivery systems are built into the facility with the option for rapid extraction if required.

The building can be reached from several access points on the ground and first floor, enabling trainers to devise a number of scenarios that crews can be called to. This also allows - depending on the scale of the scenario - for three exercises to be run simultaneously.

Fires can be lit in the rooms with pallets and blow torches and for added realism, a hot air system circulates at 50 degrees, making conditions extremely difficult but realistic.

The realistic fire training unit prepares firefighters for tactical plans, to test if they are fit for purpose and direct 'real' incidents, improving their skills

Fire service staff have been training at the unit, which took three months to complete, since July.

It will be officially opened officially by Ann Millington, Deputy Chief Executive for Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS), on Tuesday 17 November at 10am and will be followed by a live demonstration.

Area Manager for Training, Paul Flaherty, who oversees all training for firefighters said: "Thanks to the Realistic Fire Training unit, we can train our firefighters to be the very best they can be through live fire scenarios, in a safe working environment.

"This facility enables firefighters to prepare tactical plans, rehearse them to test if they are fit for purpose and direct 'real' incidents, improving their skills and learning the symptoms and signs of fire in the process.

"Firefighters are then able to take this invaluable experience to genuine incidents, bringing with them a great deal of expertise and confidence to resolve whatever they may face, swiftly and in the best practice.

"The drive behind it is to replicate situations that can and do occur in a firefighters career and expose fire crews to something that would be appropriate to their real life tasks."

Deputy Chief Executive Ann Millington said: "KFRS is recognised as an innovator of modern and advanced fire fighting, and we pride ourselves on being one of the best fire and rescue services in the country.

"As a forward thinking organisation, we are constantly striving to improve our service and provide value for money. As part of this, we have invested in vital training facilities that will help us provide the best service to the public and proves our commitment to the health and safety of our staff."

Fire crews using the facility will be tested on a number of key elements. These include breathing apparatus capability, search and rescue, Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS) and Positive Pressure Ventilation (PPV) fans - the latter two elements being specifically designed to minimise the environmental impact of fire fighting and to improve crew safety.

With the CAF system, which was brought in last year, fire crews are able to mix very small amounts of foam with compressed air and water to make a large quantity of wet or dry foam to fight fires.

Fire crews using the facility will be tested breathing apparatus capability, search and rescue, Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS) and Positive Pressure Ventilation (PPV) fans

The foam extinguishes fires much faster than using water, minimising crews exposure to fumes therefore improving their safety. Appliances and firefighters are then able to be released from the scene of an incident much sooner and because they use considerably less water, it vastly reduces the detrimental effects a fire can have on local surroundings.

The PPV fans are used to increase pressure inside fire hit buildings which, subsequently, drive out heat, smoke, gases and other products of combustion.

The fan typically provides a flow of cool, fresh air into a building, making it much safer for firefighters who may have to enter a building to tackle the fire within or if they had to rescue people trapped inside.

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