GARDEN CITY, Kansas — Larry Pander teaches Fire Science to firefighter hopefuls at Garden City Community College.
They learn everything from EMT training about how to deal with prairie fires in the dry climate of Southwest Kansas.
As for structure fires he has a special facility where he can teach in a safe, but life-like way.
“That tower is so versatile,” said Garden City Fire Department Battalion Chief Rick Collins. “We go light a fire in the tower and do search and rescue in the tower [or] we repel off the tower .”
Special tiles keep the fire from actually burning the building down so they can have drills over and over again.
Only one or two rooms are set on fire in the large building, filling it with smoke.
“They deal with lack of visibility more than they deal with heat,” said Pander.
With limited funds for training, the college and fire department split the cost of the tower so they could both benefit from it.
“Fortunately we don’t fight fire everyday so that gives us a broad range of things we can work on and we can do that at the tower,” said Collins.
Those training drills teach something that is invaluable in such a dangerous job.
“In fire fighting you can’t say ‘imagine there’s a fire over there’,” said Pander.
Unlike other places in the country Kansas doesn’t really have a shortage of fire fighters. It’s actually a very competitive profession.
“They have the training and they’re ready to get a job when they leave,” said Pander of his students.
The next live burn will be on March 8th.