By Michael Abeyta

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Recruits for West Metro Fire have been in class for a month now and Friday was their first hands-on lesson.

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(credit: CBS)

They learned not every fire is the same because of factors like the weather, how old your home is, and what you have in your home.

“Our recruit class builds three different buildings consistent with modern construction, legacy construction and an unfinished basement,” said Lt. Dan Fahrney of West Metro Fire.

“Today were going to burn them to the ground.”

Recruit Brian Willer says the exercise made him look at house fires differently.

“It really changes your perspective,” he said. “When some of this furniture made of the vinyls, PVC products…when those took off…” He was shocked at how quickly and how hot the synthetic materials can burn.

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That’s not the only thing the recruits witnessed. They learned about how unstable a structure can become before they even arrive to fight a fire.

“We have a 250 pound weight on the roof consistent with a firefighter in full gear and we start the timer when the fire is ignited,” Fahrney said.

About four and a half minutes into the drill, the weight fell through the roof.

“Our response times take on average four to five minutes. So four to five minutes into this fire when we are pulling up what are conditions going to be like? They’re going to be pretty dangerous,” said Fahrney.

(credit: CBS)

Friday was a windy day and that gave the recruits an added lesson: the surrounding environment can affect how a fire burns. Fahrney explains, “We try to recognize conditions like wind and what effect those are going to have on the fire so they can operate safely in buildings that are on fire and they can stay safe and protect the community.”

Recruit Willer says he learned a lot about fire and the way it burns. He said of the experience, “Very eye opening as far as the amount of heat that you will feel when we’re going inside some of these structures.”

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Michael Abeyta is a 4th generation Coloradan and a Multimedia Journalist for CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 5 & 6. He is on Twitter! Follow him @AbeytaCBS4.