Cadets from the Howell Public Schools’ Fire Academy smoldered in their final training exercise Tuesday morning.

The Hamburg Township Fire Department’s Training Tower hosted the hands-on experience for the program’s cadets. The academy, run by Lieutenant Tom Kiurski from the Brighton Area Fire Authority, provides high school students from Livingston and Oakland County with the training they need to pass the state’s firefighter certification exam.

Cadets geared up in their full turnout gear and participated in several exercises inside of the tower. “Burn rooms” in the three-story tower were stocked with wood pallets and hay bales that were set on fire so cadets could experience the development of a fire, the build in smoke and heat, and the reduction in visibility. Another exercise entailed dragging hoses into the building to put the fires out and performing a search and rescue operation with dummies.

Mara Hickman, one of the program’s cadets and a junior at Howell High School, says she couldn’t sleep Monday night in anticipation of the exercise. She admits she was worried about smoke getting into her mask and how hot the small rooms can get, but thought it was fun and that everything went well. Elise Moor, academy cadet and junior at Howell High School, agreed and says the burn lab was “kind of terrifying at first”. Moor says she was nervous and felt some pressure as smoke started to make its way through the tower, but that it was a cool, first-time experience.

Lt. Kiurski says cadets had the opportunity to try different positions in the scenario, learn hose movements, extinguishments, and build confidence in utilizing their gear. Cadet Blake Vershum, a senior at Whitmore Lake High School, says the exercise was fun and that it was pretty cool to see how fast the fire and heat escalated inside of the tower. He says just by standing up, the group could feel and see the difference in heat and visibility levels.

Cadet Brandon Patterson is a Senior at Hartland High School and a member of the Hartland-Deerfield Fire Authority’s Junior Cadet program, which allows students in the academy to actually participate as a paid on-call firefighter. Patterson, who says he "highly, highly" recommends the academy, felt the exercise was beneficial as a good starting point that’s not too extreme. He believes the observation was helpful because being told something repeatedly and reading it in a book is “… completely different when you actually see it.”

Lt. Kiurski says in addition to the cadets applying their training in a realistic situation, their reactions in the high-intensity environment were monitored too. Kiurski says learning by “playing with fire” made it a good end of the year lesson. (DK)