OPELIKA, AL (WTVM) - Firefighters need to continue their training and rookies need to learn the ropes now more than ever, as Alabama experiences a high risk of drought-fueled wildfires capable of endangering lives while spreading to homes and businesses.
However, a statewide burn ban means even fire departments can't start controlled burns for training. Thankfully, training continues because just this week the Opelika Fire Department purchased a BullEx Fire Simulator.
"We are under fire restrictions now, so this is the perfect time for us to use the simulator without the threat of real fire and wasting water for the drought situation," explained Captain Stephen Fields.
The $17,000 piece of equipment includes a digital fire board and a smoke machine.
"This is about as close as you can get without having a fire and there are no safety hazards," said Captain Fields.
Within seconds the BullEx fills the room with a thick smoke, making it nearly impossible to see a person standing right next to you.
"You get disoriented, you can't find the exits. The smoke is so thick you can't see your hand in front of your face. It's awesome," said the firefighter.
Firefighters can use a laser hose or water to put out the digital fire. The simulator is portable and will be used in local schools, greatly enhancing fire drills and hopefully saving lives.
"It's a great tool for us to take to the schools and simulate for the kids. It makes it real life experience," he said.
Firefighters are urging you to obey the burn ban. If you're a smoker, be careful. Firefighters say just one flick of a cigarette can lead to a wildfire several acres wide, endangering homes, businesses, and lives.
The BullEx fire simulator was approved by the Opelika City Council and purchased through tax dollars.