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KFD Recruits Get 'Live Burn' Training Prior to Demolition of Vacant Buildings 

The Knoxville Fire Department’s new recruits had a rare opportunity - a controlled “live burn” training experience inside buildings at Walter P. Taylor Homes on Tuesday, Dec. 4.

In full gear, the recruits were accompanied by experienced KFD firefighters as they took on a variety of scenarios that occur in real-life fires, such as crawling out from under debris, navigating through zero visibility smoke, and removing victims from second floors.

KFD recruit training

This training day was all possible due to collaboration with Knoxville's Community Development Corp., which is moving into the next phase of a long-term $85 million Five Points Revitalization Master Plan.

As the next phase requires demolition of aged buildings along Bethel Avenue, the offer was made to KFD to use the buildings for recruit training prior to demolition.

“This kind of opportunity - where buildings in an isolated location are going to be demolished - offers a very unique experience for our recruits,” said Assistant Fire Chief Mark Wilbanks. “Our recruit classes haven’t had a chance like this in decades, and we’re very grateful to KCDC.”

Inside the 'live burn' building
A recruit practices maneuvers inside one of the live burn buildings at Walter P. Taylor Homes.

With 34 recruits, this is the largest recruiting class in KFD history. It’s also one of the most diverse with recruits originating from all over the country in addition to one from Europe and one from South America.

Eloise Yeomans, a recruit hailing from England, where she also served on a fire department, commented on Tuesday’s unique training opportunity.

“It’s far and between that you get to do exercises like this, so it’s been a fantastic opportunity and I’m definitely enjoying it for sure,” Yeomans said on a break between exercises.

Justin and Dustin Chambers, who are twins, volunteered for about 10 years before joining this year’s recruiting class.

“Everybody gets a good kick out of it (being twins),” said Justin Chambers, who added that the academy is “definitely a life-changing experience.”

“It seems like a really good class… A lot of hidden talent, a lot of us, I believe,” said Dustin Chambers. “Everybody works well together … listens really well… We keep striving every day.”

Another recruit, Ashley Tucker, has previous experience in the Air Force and still serves as a reserve.


“Our command went above and beyond to get us live fire in a structure,” said Tucker. “It’s been absolutely wonderful.”

Melvin Tamsiran is originally from Suriname (just north of Brazil in South America), where he served as a firefighter prior to coming to Knoxville.

“It’s an honor to be here, working with the best and getting taught by the best,” Tamsiran said just before going back into the live burn building.

KCDC contractors will soon demolish the buildings on Bethel Avenue now that the KFD training day is over. The KFD recruits are slated to graduate on Feb. 8, 2019.

Posted by On 05 December, 2018 at 5:29 PM