The Richmond Register

March 7, 2014

Eastern students practice fire fighting in burning building

Prepare for investigation training next week

By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — Thick barrels of smoke rolled out of the room as nearby observers could feel the fire’s heat on their faces. Furniture and drywall fueled the blaze. Flames licked the top of the door frame and the flat ceiling.

A group of five Eastern Kentucky University co-op students and their instructors waited patiently just feet from the home as the flames rolled higher. Students pointed the water hose directly into the structure when given the signal to suppress the fire.

What looked like the scene of an emergency situation was actually fire-suppression training through EKU’s Fire Protection Safety Engineering Technology Department.

Students were preparing the department’s “burn building” for National Association of Fire Investigators’ international training next week.

More than 140 fire investigators, fire marshals, firefighters and manufacturers’ representatives will attend the training, with an option to earn certification in fire investigation, said Kathryn Smith, vice-chair of the NAFI board.

Based in Sarasota, Fla., NAFI is the largest fire investigation certification organization in the world, Smith said. It usually hosts two to three trainings a year, but it has probably been five years since one has been conducted at EKU.

Divided into eight cells and constructed out of concrete, the burn building’s interior is furnished like a home, complete with drywall and wall studs. The fire-suppression exercises gave co-op students a little practice, but the fire scenes also will give trainees something to investigate at the NAFI training next week, said Bill Hicks, EKU associate professor.

Similar burn exercises are conducted two to three times a semester, and students get the chance to “investigate a case from beginning to end,” he said.

In addition to several local firefighters and professors observing Friday, the parents of EKU junior Ben Elsesser were nearby with cameras and video recorders in hand.

Visiting from Chicago, Mark and Barb Elsesser were excited to see in action their son who is pursuing a degree in fire protection administration.

Barb relayed the story of her son’s first experience fighting a fire last fall during which a resident’s pair of pet monkeys somehow started a fire.

From what she heard, the occupants, including the monkeys, made it out safely.

Crystal Wylie can be reached at or 623-1669 Ext. 6696.