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Bradley County firefighters prepare to control a fire inside metal storage container at the Bradley County Fire & Rescue Training Center.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Bradley County Fire and Rescue's newest firefighters are undergoing written and hands-on "live burn" state certification tests this week.

The county hired 41 new firefighters as it opened new stations on Minnis Road, Dalton Pike and Georgetown Road.

"At the [end of the week] we will have more people certified at the level they need to be at," Fire Chief Troy Maney said at a recent meeting with members of the Bradley County Fire Board.

"Live burn" tests are done at Bradley County Fire and Rescue's training center, which is next to the new Waterville fire station on Dalton Pike, Battalion Chief Don Tankersley said.

The facility provides opportunities for firefighters to experience training scenarios involving confined spaces through the use of converted metal cargo containers. The site also uses a Volkswagen car shell and a Dumpster as part of its firefighting curriculum.

Most firefighters easily pass these kinds of practical tests, Tankersley said. Live burn testing is hands-on, and instructors help them through it.

"The only way they probably wouldn't [pass] is if they're claustrophobic and just can't take it," Tankersley said. "We find that out pretty quickly and then they're not going to make it, period."

Across the state a certain percentage of firefighters fail written tests, he said, but personnel may sign up for certification testing again if they believe they performed poorly.

The practical testing at the training center has saved Bradley County Fire and Rescue money and could be used to generate funds, fire officials said.

Maney said the department has saved more than $12,000 so far by doing new firefighter training in-house and probably will save another $12,000 to $15,000.

The department would like to add more live burn training options to the facility, which has been praised by visiting firefighters, he said. On Friday, five people from four agencies will use the site along with Bradley firefighters.

Bradley County Fire and Rescue is not set up to charge visiting personnel to use its training center, but implementing a hosting fee could provide money to offset some department expenses, officials said.

Tankersley said a comparable training facility in Alcoa, Tenn., charges about $700 per person.

In other business, new policies should be in place by the end of the week for firefighter trips for meals and groceries while on duty, Maney said.

Under the new policies, during a 24-hour shift a firefighter may leave the station only one time to go out for dinner or groceries, and the number of on-duty personnel who can leave the station at one time will be reduced.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at