Councilman Jamie Harris, Mayor David Grissom, Councilman William Nale, Council David Palmer and Fire Chief Joe Mansell pose for a picture after going through the Alabama Fire College’s mobile burn trailer.
Councilman Jamie Harris, Mayor David Grissom, Councilman William Nale, Council David Palmer and Fire Chief Joe Mansell pose for a picture after going through the Alabama Fire College’s mobile burn trailer.

Archived Story

Council gets first-hand experience with fire training

Published 4:28pm Monday, December 9, 2013

The old saying goes that you will never know what a person has gone through until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, and last Friday, Russellville Mayor David Grissom and members of the city council took that saying quite literally as they each strapped on 80 pounds of firefighting gear and used it to put out a confined fire.

The scenario was one that was made possible through the Alabama Fire College’s mobile burn trailer, which is a large trailer equipped with the technology to simulate different types of structure fires for the purpose of training.

Russellville Fire Chief Joe Mansell said the trailer travels across the state and had been stationed in Russellville for the past week so his department could use it for different training scenarios.

“The mobile fire trailer is really an invaluable tool because it gives us the chance to train in a safe environment,” Mansell said.

“We are working with real fire and all of our actual gear, but the fire can be cut off at any point if necessary. It gives us the most realistic way to train to fight a fire without being in any major danger during the training.

“We are always glad to host the trailer and appreciate the Alabama Fire College for making it possible.”

Mansell said he was approached by Grissom earlier in the week about letting the council participate in some of the training to get a better idea of what the city’s firefighters go through on a daily basis, and Mansell said he was more than willing to accommodate that request.

“I thought that it was great that the council wanted to actually see first-hand what it’s like to be a firefighter for the city,” Mansell said.

“In my 22 years with this department, we’ve had mayors and council members who have come to the station to see equipment or demonstrations, but this is the first administration who has suited up to get a taste of what we do first-hand.”

Grissom, who was the first one to go through the mobile burn trailer and put out two fires, said he wanted to have a better understanding of what the city’s firefighters have to go through since he works closely with the fire department.

“I want to be hands-on with all our departments and really get a feel for what they do, what they need, and how I can better serve them as their mayor,” Grissom said.

“When I found out about the Alabama Fire College’s mobile burn trailer being at the fire department this week, I thought this would be a great opportunity for us to really get that hands-on experience, and Joe was gracious enough to let us come down and be a part of it.

“I have always had a great respect for our firefighters, but I have a whole new level of respect for them after seeing what they are up against when they are fighting a fire.

“It was unbelievably hot inside the trailer, even with all the gear on, and there was so much smoke that you couldn’t see. There is a lot that goes into fighting a fire, and I just appreciate these guys and all they do to keep our city safe.”

In addition to Mayor Grissom, councilmen David Palmer, William Nale and Jamie Harris all participated in the training as well.

“I appreciate these guys letting us see what they go through,” Harris said.

“They risk their lives to save somebody else’s, and I am thankful for all they do, especially now after seeing what all it takes to be a firefighter.”

“Things have really changed since the early 70s,” Nale added.

“The firefighters have better equipment now, but you can see why that equipment is needed after going in that trailer. It makes you really appreciate what they do.”

Palmer said he definitely agreed.

“This was a neat experience, but it was also an eye-opening experience,” Palmer said.

“I’m walking away from this with a new perspective on how dangerous and difficult it is to be a firefighter, and I thank Chief Mansell and the Fire College for orchestrating this experience.”

John James, regional training coordinator for the Alabama Fire College, said he appreciated the mayor and council taking the initiative to go through the training.

“The fire service appreciates it when elected officials actually take the time to see what we do,” James said.

“The mayor and the council are the ones who have to make decisions about what equipment to purchase, what gear is needed, how many people the department needs to employ – the list goes on and on.

“These men will now be better equipped to make those types of decisions because they have gotten a taste of what these guys do and what they really need.”


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