Shipping Container-Based Burn Buildings in Action

May 8, 2019
Shipping Container-Based Burn Buildings in Action

When we shipped out the modified containers that would later form the Travis County Fire Department’s burn building, we could only imagine what they would look like in practice–until they invited us to see them in action. The week we came out, the fire department was filling their container-based burn building with real fire and practicing rescuing long-suffering rubber mannequins over and over.

The training structure for the Travis County Fire Department was created using five 40-foot shipping containers. When joined together, cut-outs in the containers’ walls make passages and doorways. Window cutouts can be kept open or, as seen in the video, boarded up to minimize visibility. Filled with smoke and flames, the seemingly simple structure becomes a maze.


Fire fighters must search and clear every section of the structure to find victims represented by mannequins that may or may not have been hidden inside before the drill. As you can see in the video, the fire fighters only have about four feet of visibility. On top of the smoke and fire, the fire fighters train in full gear, including SCBA tanks and respirators.

Needless to say, carrying 45+ lb. of gear into a burn building is sweltering work. As we were filming, we were impressed with the fire fighters’ capacity to repeat these drills all week. It was an amazing reminder of the work fire fighters do for our communities. We’re grateful for their skill and bravery in an emergency!

A growing number of fire departments are using shipping containers to create burn buildings for two reasons: durability and cost. Shipping containers’ corten steel can stand up to repeated training exercises with live flames. Repurposing containers modified offsite keeps costs under control, while leaving room to scale up. Placing uniformly sized containers onsite is simple, so it’s easy to add to the structure at a later date.

To learn more about training structures, check out our related blogs and case studies:

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