Fire Departments Train Together at GCSC's Fire Academy - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Fire Departments Train Together at GCSC's Fire Academy

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It's not often you find firefighters starting a fire. Their expertise is to extinguish them quickly and efficiently. However, at least once a year, fire departments will create realistic situations to sharpen their skills.

Friday evening, the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport and Bay County Fire Departments joined forces at Gulf Coast State College's Fire Academy.

They created scenarios with live fire in the academy's special "house." The building is three stories tall and can withstand temperatures as hot at 1,300 degrees.

"With any house fire we go to, there is so many unknowns that we take chances with," said Captain Wayne Gilmore, with Bay County. "This is the safest way to get the exact same thing but know all the outcomes, know ahead of time what we're walking into."

In Friday's scenario, there was a fire on the first floor. Smoke was filling the home, and a victim on the second floor needed to be rescued.

"It's a chance for the guys, in the safest environment possible, to practice the most dangerous job we know," said Gilmore.

"It's actually a real morale booster, and it's always better when you work with someone that you've seen their face before," said Deputy Fire Chief Austin Andrews with the airport.

The fire departments in Bay County have mutual aid agreements. If a department needs help or back up on a call, neighboring departments will also respond. Training together is just one way they strengthen those relationships.

"Manpower, staffing, budgets are what they are, so when we don't have the manpower for one fire, every agency goes. Every agency sends somebody to help," said Gilmore. "We're all about just making sure the county is safe."

Firefighters said a lot goes into a night of training, including a partnership with the college and donations from local businesses.