A mobile fire training trailer, owned and operated by Barnstable County, has made its way to Sandwich as part of a new firefighter training program following the closure of the Barnstable County Fire/Rescue Training Academy in 2019.
The “prop” takes the place of the old burn building in Barnstable, which used to hold year-round trainings for Cape fire departments, said Sandwich Fire Lieutenant Brian Leary.
Inside the unit, which is one floor but has roof access for basement firefighting simulations, there are movable walls to build maze-like structures so firefighters can get used to hauling hoses around corners and down hallways. It simulates the dark, enclosed areas with limited ability for movement that they could encounter in a burning building. The trailer also has a propane-fueled engine block that creates flames so firefighters can practice basic flame extinguishing exercises.
Though the trailer has been in Sandwich for a month, a broken part prevented the department from utilizing it during their allotted time, Lt. Leary said. Once the part is fixed, training can start.
The trailer is currently stationed next door to the department’s Route 6A station, behind the former police station.
“This has been in the works for quite a while and we just recently got it down here,” Lt. Leary said. “We reach out to them and say we want to set up a training and they have the trailer delivered wherever we want to do it and supply personnel to run the trailer.”
Once the trailer is functioning, firefighters will train while on duty, said Lt. Leary, who also works as a fire instructor for Barnstable County.
He said that while he would prefer to use the burn building in Barnstable, which is an actual concrete building with three floors, the mobile trailer does has its benefits. He said keeping firefighters in Sandwich for training is a big advantage of the mobile units because they are still able respond to an emergency. They just stop their training and go.
The the burn building in Barnstable was closed due to groundwater contamination concerns caused by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found in firefighting foam, which were used on the site for 10 years, according to the Barnstable County website. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection ordered the closure of the building after deeming the academy “PFAS-contaminated” and a threat to the public drinking aquifer.
By order of Sandwich Fire Chief John J. Burke, the fire department is not allowed to use foams to fight fires, Lt. Leary said. The decision was made collectively in April between all Cape fire chiefs.
“There are no foam operations and the only exception to that would be a Class B fire for gasoline or fuel,” Chief Burke said. “At that point, it would be situationally dependent and the only time we would consider using it.”