BLAZING SUCCESS

The fire bloomed and blossomed on Seymour High School student Sean Miller as he ripped the pin from a fire extinguisher, pointed it at the fire and put it out.

Although it seemed real enough, the recent event was actually a simulation involving a virtual fire on a video screen and a replica of a fire extinguisher that shoots a torrent of lasers to extinguish the fire.

It was part of an effort by two representatives of Aisin World Corp. of America to teach some of the students in Bob Sexton’s engineering class about how to properly use the fire extinguisher and have a little fun in the process.

“You guys are lucky,” the technology teacher told his students. “I’ve been trained year after year what to do in a fire, but my training focuses on getting everyone to safety. You all are learning how to protect yourselves.”

Nathan Bye, manager at Aisin World Corp. of America’s learning center, and Mark Warren, the firm’s safety/environmental manager, brought along the company’s BullsEye fire extinguisher training system, which is used to simulate a real fire.

The class began with an instructional session by Warren and Bye, who explained the different classifications of fire: Class A, trash fires; Class B, liquids, such as gasoline; Class C, electrical; Class D, metals, such as magnesium; and Class K, kitchen.

The pair talked about the different types of fire extinguishers, such as liquid, gas, powder and others, and which ones are used in fighting each type of fire. They also discussed the importance of knowing where fire extinguishers are located in a business or home and checking the expiration date of the extinguishers to make sure they are up-to-date.

After that, Bye and Warren demonstrated how to fight fires with an extinguisher, pulling the pin, squeezing the handle and moving the spray slowly back and forth across the base of the fire, watching for flareups. 

The training culminated in the use of the BullsEye fire extinguisher training system, which involves a screen attached to a computer system that could simulate not only the different types of fires but also increase and decrease the difficulty of the blaze.

Students used mock extinguishers built with a laser projection system in which the nozzles project a circle of dots on the fire. They had to then try using it the same as they would a real extinguisher. 

The replica fire extinguishers, like the real ones, slowly lessen until they die out about 45 seconds after use, which gave the students an idea about the limitations of fire extinguishers.

The virtual fire could be increased or decreased based on performance by a handheld unit and recorded times in a spreadsheet that could be used to determine pass/fail for real training.

“The more expensive unit even has a built-in fog machine that can shoot fog to simulate smoke,” Warren said.

Warren said while the initial investment for the machine — $15,000 — might seem expensive, it is significantly less expensive and safer than the previous method of training on how to use a fire extinguishers. The old method involved building a fire in a pit and letting the trainees use real extinguishers to put out the fire at approximately $75 per extinguisher.

“We take it around to lots of different locations, so it gets more use,” Warren said. “The unit has basically paid for itself.”

In addition, the system is quicker, which allowed each of the 15 students to train during one class period. In the past, an actual fire was started, put out and then restarted for each person taking the training.

The idea for the training session came from Bye’s work with Sexton during Sexton’s summer robotics camp at Aisin.

“Nathan called me up one day and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got something that might be fun for your students to try, and they’d learn something from it, too,'” Sexton said.

Sexton said he enjoyed the session and was certain the kids had learned from it.

“We hope that the students learn how to use extinguishers if they would have to in their home or even on the job,” Warren said.

Author photo
Aaron Piper is a photographer and reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at apiper@tribtown.com or 812-523-7057.