Demolition by fire: Fire rescue recruits get real-world experience

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New recruits with Tampa Fire Rescue got to train on real houses for the first time Friday thanks to a partnership between the city and a home building company.

Domain Homes sets aside houses set for demo, so firefighters in training can test their skills while it stands. Friday afternoon, neighbors on Ohio Avenue got a heads up about the afternoon training, complete with water hoses, axes on the roof and plenty of fire equipment

“I was a teacher over at Hillsborough High School for a little over two years teaching English there,” said Jehri Buss, a Tampa Fire Rescue recruit.

Buss decided a career change was in order to serve the community, and getting hands-on experience on a house is invaluable to her.

“To be able to throw ladders on a real house, run water, throw water on a real house, navigate real obstacles, for me has been huge because I’ve never, I’ve never done that before,” said Buss.

In April, Tampa Fire Rescue partnered with Domain Homes to practice firefighting techniques on houses set for demolition. After the firefighters and recruits finish with the house, it is demolished and a new house is built in its place.

“The houses that are left for us sometimes they have furniture in them, which is great because it adds real obstacles for the students to work around,” said Capt. William Townsend of Tampa Fire Rescue.

The 16 recruits practiced fire attacks, searching for a victim and creating ventilation on the roof. They all had to overcome their own challenges in a real house, so they are better prepared for whenever an actual fire breaks out.

“I definitely know that has a woman I do not have the brute strength that all of my brothers have, so I just have to learn the techniques that I can use to maneuver all the big things out here,” said Buss.

This group of recruits will graduate and become firefighters on December 19 after about six weeks of training.