BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A massive fire was burning off Nicholson Drive Wednesday night, but it was part of a training exercise for the Baton Rouge Fire Department. The training event was held at LSU's Fire and Training Institute.
Marching into danger is what these firefighter recruits signed up for, and now it's showtime. Their family members gathered to watch the annual night burn.
"It's one of my favorite nights, to see the twinkle in all their eyes as they watch the recruits battle the blaze," said Chief Ed Smith.
"I'm watching my brother, he's my twin actually, my twin brother, Dwight LeBlanc," said Lloyd LeBlanc.
Two tanker cars were coated with diesel, then carefully lit. The recruits stand back and watch as flames billow 100 feet into the sky. Then it's time to attack. Several teams move in, getting real experience tackling a dangerous blaze. One day, it may not be a drill.
"If you have seen it before, you're better prepared for it. In our industrial corridor, we always have that potential of having this type fire," said Smith.
Chief Smith will tell you it's much more than just point and shoot. In their six-month academy, firefighters learn to use different intensities of water and foam. They also learn how to protect themselves and those around them.
"I've never been this close to a fire before. It was pretty cool seeing how big it was," said LeBlanc.
The family support just as vital as the training. First responders must also learn to deal with the emotional stress of their daily routine.
"They don't just fight fires, they do everything. They do car crashes, hazmat, chemical spills, I mean, they see everything," said LeBlanc.
Fifteen recruits completed the night's training exercise.