Firefighters from Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center in Michigan have spent dozens of off-duty hours this winter building live-fire training props to aid 12 county fire departments. Demonstration in April showcased how these small-scale buildings help ensure first responders are prepared to employ fire protection strategies.

The props, known as “Palmer’s Dollhouses,” are used by fire departments nationwide to train on critical skills, including communication, smoke reading (color, velocity, density and volume), ventilation tactics, and thermal imaging camera operations. The props are named after their designer, Matt Palmer, a fire captain in Stamford, Connecticut.

Builders FirstSource of Alpena donated plywood and materials for 12 Palmer’s Dollhouses. Firefighters from Alpena CRTC volunteered approximately 48 off-duty hours to construct them, one for each volunteer fire department in Alpena County. Alpena CRTC will distribute the models to local fire departments throughout the month.

According to CRTC firefighter Nate Seelye, smoke patterns and characteristics are the same, regardless of scale, which is what makes the Palmer’s Dollhouses an important tool.

“These houses provide really effective, valuable training for our county fire departments,” said Seelye. “They’re going to learn about risk management, command and control, and other concepts so all of our first responders will be better prepared to protect lives and property across the community.”