Fire School

Trainees at the Fire and Emergency Training Institute at LSU practice on a simulated chemical fire at the facility. (Credit: Scott Branson)
Trainees at the Fire and Emergency Training Institute at LSU practice on a simulated chemical fire at the facility. (Credit: Scott Branson)

By Scott Branson | LSU Student

The LSU Fire and Emergency Training Institute (FETI) train thousands of current and prospective firefighters each year in the promotion of the science of fire safety across Louisiana and beyond.

FETI is situated on 80 acres of land, three miles south of LSU's main campus in Baton Rouge, and features a "field," with a multitude of "props" used in training exercises. Props are used to simulate potentially dangerous situations, including anything from chemical fires to tugboat engine-room fires.

Director Michael Donahue said the program does much more than it did at its inception in 1963, when the program was confined to Pleasant Hall at LSU.

"It was all classroom based. There was no actual live firefighter training."

Donahue said the program serves clients at the Baton Rouge center, and travels the state for training sessions at individual fire stations. While primarily training firefighters from Gulf Coast states, the FETI also serves firefighters from as far away as Alaska.

In 1972, the program relocated to create more classroom space and to allow for live training facilities.

Eddit Tessmer, LSU FETI manager of industrial, marine, Haz-Mat and fire extinguisher certification programs, said the center caters to municipal fire departments and industrial clients.

The program is segmented into training and certification, and a firefighter need not go through the training before taking the certification test, and vice versa. For municipal rookies, the training and certification take 14 weeks.

"We train to protect life, property and the environment," Donahue said. "Some fire departments are very certification-oriented, in that to be promoted, you have to have certain certifications. Other fire departments don't require certifications at all."

Alan Joos, the assistant director of certification and accreditation, said there's no state or national standard outlining what's required to become a firefighter.

"Eligibility is really on the employer," Joos said. "We don't dictate the standards to the employers."

Joos said the FETI teaches and tests the generic methods and skills as there are multiple "correct" ways of doing nearly everything they train for.

"The standard says, 'hook a hose to hydrant', and there's five ways to do it," Joos said. "The instructors here will teach it two or three different ways, but then you still have to go back to the department and learn how they do it."

The regulations on industrial companies and their firefighters are far more stringent, requiring eight hours of live fire training each year.

"Just like any skill that you don't use, you're bound to lose sharpness when you don't train on it or practice it," Tessmer said.

Tessmer said the industrial firefighters who train at the FETI are employed by off-shore oil rigs, factories, electric companies, and train on props specific to their industry. "We're working with some pretty severe chemicals in some of these plants."

Industrial clients pay the FETI to train their firefighters and use the props to simulate a potential emergency situation.