Firefighters crawl toward a fire during training near Camp Hansen, Okinawa, on Thursday.

Firefighters crawl toward a fire during training near Camp Hansen, Okinawa, on Thursday. (Will Morris / S&S)

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — Fire-suppression training is kind of like bowling. As soon as you knock the pins down, someone else puts them up again.

The only difference is, in fire-suppression training, the pins are so hot, they could peel the skin off your body.

On Thursday, firefighters from Marine Corps bases on Okinawa conducted refresher training on fire behavior. All of the department’s 180 firefighters will go through the training, which will last through the month.

Instructors hope the training will re-emphasize how fire behaves and responds to different applications of water, according to Tetsuya Kudeken, a captain with the department.

“We’ve got to learn fire behavior and tactics,” he said. “It’s not about just throwing water on a fire.”

And there’s lots to learn.

Steam coming off a water-doused fire can be just as dangerous as the fire itself. Cascading steam can force superheated gases down onto firefighters. Steam from an extinguished fire also can quickly fill a room, scalding to death anyone unfortunate enough to be inside.

Thursday’s training started after instructors set stacks of wooden pallets on fire in a fire-proofed shipboard storage container. Working in teams of four, firefighters took turns approaching the fire and then extinguishing it.

Kudeken said that each year the departments on the island respond to about 3,000 calls for service, most for medical service and accident response. Last year, the departments responded to about 30 fires, a majority being kitchen and brush fires.

Firefighter Masaya Kinjo, who has been in the department for about a year and a half, said the training was intense. Firefighters attacked the blazes clad in the standard firefighting protective gear.

Kinjo said that even with all his gear on, he could feel the heat radiating through the Kevlar overcoat.

“When I was in there, it felt like it was forever,” he said.

Kudeken said the gear was like wearing a waterproof sweat suit.

“Nothing goes in, and nothing comes out,” he said.

Katsuji China, the battalion fire chief, said the instructors were eager to teach and everything went smoothly.

“Bottom line: All of our captains are good, which makes my job easy,” he said.

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