The Pratt Fire Department has been very busy for the past few months. While the firefighters have had a lot of real events lately, training is still key to keep the firefighters and public safe, said Pratt Fire Chief David Kramer.

For a two week period, the firefighters have been using two unoccupied houses in the 400 block of North Pine to practice fire fighting techniques.

Having real structures for practice is rare so when these side-by-side structures became available, it was too good an opportunity to turn down.

"We jumped at the chance," Kramer said.

An advantage of having lots of time to practice is that every firefighter gets a chance to practice all the training elements.

To simulate fire conditions, a burn barrel was set up to fill the house with smoke and it was very effective.

"You literally could not see your hand in front of your face," Kramer said.

Once the house was filled with smoke, the firefighters responded as if it were a real fire.

Communications were just like they would be in fire while firefighters practiced attacking the fire, searching for and rescuing victims plus simulating a fireman down and rescue. Venting techniques such as opening the roof and walls were also part of the training.

Having the opportunity to practice under these conditions is vital to keeping firefighters and the community safe.

"This is very, very valuable training," Kramer said. "Live training always improves our skills."

Firefighter Doug Ray said the training was fun but it was difficult to keep track of everything going on.

LisaBeth Mohler, the only female firefighter, said everything was a challenge especially the thick smoke.

Firefighting allows him to give back to the community, said Lt. Dan Decker, a 10 year veteran.