KANAWHA COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia University put student firefighters’ skills to the test on Sunday in St. Albans during live burn training exercises.

Students between the ages of 16 to 25-years-old took part in the training at the West Side Fire Department.

As part of the training, the students participated in simulation drills inside WVU’s mobile fire lab, where they practiced several scenarios they could see playing out in real life. Some of the practices included search and rescue in heavy smoke, putting out flames as hot as over 1,000 degrees, shutting off a sprinkler system, and even wiping down the neck and armpit areas to clean up potential chemical exposure.

Charli Estrathers is 17-years-old and learning to become a firefighter, and faced the challenges of the simulations head-on.

“It was pitch black in there, could not see,” Estrathers said, describing the search and rescue exercise in zero visibility. “Could only see the ball of flames coming at you, and we had to put it out, and we had to take turns with the hose.”

Tom Miller was a firefighter himself for 30 years. Currently, he is an instructor at WVU who runs these training sessions across West Virginia. He says holding these drills is crucial so students can harness these skills and apply them when the time comes to do it in the field.

“When seconds count, training matters,” Miller said. “We have to get our firefighters to the point where they have a high level of confidence in operating in zero visibility, operating in high heat environments, or operating in high heat environments that most other people are going to run away from.”

Student firefighters from Kanawha, Logan, and Boone counties took part in the training.