Dark smoke and the heat of fire press against the concrete walls, crowding into every corner. Crawling into the burn tower under thick, low-hanging smoke and oppressive heat, the trainee finds herself unable to recall the pleasant daytime weather outside. She follows one of two fire hoses laying on the gritty cement floor, around a partition on the left, and towards a firefighter several feet ahead. He holds the nozzle of the fire hose and aims it at the far left corner of the room, fifteen feet in front of him, where a fire sends flames bursting toward the ceiling. Smoke and heat wafts through a small window cut into the concrete wall on the left, just a few feet above the kneeling firefighter and trainee. Despite this opening, the thick smoke causes the room to maintain a hot, gray darkness. The walls and floor of the room, giving the illusion of a cool basement, are steaming in places and firelight flickers against them. In alignment in the center of the room are two large, square concrete pillars, where a congregation of trainees crouch low under the shadow of smoke and look to the right. A fire pulses with inescapable heat in the far right corner, matching its twin to the left, and another firefighter aims her nozzle of the second fire hose aimed at this fire. Together these fires create smoke in such great quantities it crowds itself down from the ceiling, hot and thick, and leaks out of the window, entry door behind the partition, and through a wide, dark doorway set into the right wall. The trainees and their instructors are constantly restrained by the unrelenting heat and suffocating thickness of smoke.
*The burn tower is a building used for firefighter training.
Author’s Note: This is a description of a burn tower room I was in during a fire behavior lecture at a summer camp that allowed me to get hands-on training in a lot of firefighting things.