Oregon is served by more than 13,000 career and volunteer firefighters who are members of more than 300 fire departments and fire protection districts across the state. Approximately 80% of Oregon’s firefighters are volunteers.

The Fire Training Program at the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) helps support local fire agencies, in every corner of the state, by supporting a variety of training classes. DPSST also has more than a dozen mobile props that enable firefighters to receive realistic hands-on training.

One of the most difficult tasks in the fire service is to provide personnel with realistic training to prepare them for field operations. Certainly, providing live-fire training is an important component. For combination and volunteer organizations, especially those in rural areas, the ability to provide live-fire training can be an extremely complex problem. In the past many fire agencies had access to homes and buildings in their local communities that were going to be demolished that provided excellent hands-on training opportunities for firefighters. Environmental concerns, neighborhood concerns, building materials, and a variety of other safety considerations have limited this.

This morning, at the City of Salem Fire Department, DPSST unveiled its newest addition of props available to local fire agencies, a 53 foot Mobile Fire Training Unit (MFTU). The MFTU cost $500,000 and was funded by a Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

This unit contains a permanent propane-fired bed prop and rollover simulator. Portable propane-fired pans can be relocated in the unit and covered with other simulated props to provide a variety of live-fire exercises. The unit’s onboard generator makes it totally self-contained and portable, though an optional shore power connection is available.

Movable interior wall panels enable instructors to change the layout of the unit to present participants with different scenarios. Several panels have mock doors or other moveable components. The integrated smoke generator creates a dark smoke that forces members to crawl and search in realistic type conditions. The collapsible second story provides the means for performing other essential skills like laddering, vertical ventilation, and multistory fire attack. A few individuals can easily erect the second story in approximately 30 minutes.

The MFTU contains numerous safety features to minimize participant risk. For propane fires to function, the operator must step on a control pedal while another instructor engages the portable safety pendant. Release of either immediately shuts the unit down. Temperature and propane sensors force operations to occur within safe limits. Should either exceed the allowable range, the unit automatically shuts down, sounds an alarm, and activates ventilation fans.

On an annual basis DPSST provides training to approximately 6,000 career and volunteer firefighters around the state free of charge thanks to the state’s Fire Insurance Premium Tax.

The MFTU will remain at Salem Fire for two additional weeks which will allow Salem firefighters to train use it for training and also enable DPSST staff to run the new unit through its paces before scheduling it for travel to fire stations around the state.