Machine guns firing all rounds, pyrotechnics roaring into fireballs and a man engulfed in flames runs away.
Quite Hollywoodesque, but these scenes were part of a fire safety training seminar held at the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Del Valle Regional Training Center in Castaic Thursday for film productions.
About 60 students, consisting of fire authorities and film production staff, took the three-day course, presented by CAL FIRE/ Office of the State Fire Marshal and hosted by the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Those that take the course walk away as certified motion picture and television fire safety officers, which are needed at every production set.
“A film permit is the most important part of the (film) equation,” said Ramiro Rodriguez, filming liaison and deputy state fire marshal, who led Thursday’s demonstration. “We serve as the state liaison to the California Film Commission for reviewing conditions and ultimately, approving film permitting on state property.”
Without a certified fire safety officer on any California film set, that might involve stunts or special effects such as with pyrotechnics, a production is “a no-go.”
This is to ensure that all activities and production staff are safe on set, said Amy Lemish, executive director of the California Film Commission.
Students have the opportunity to review a series of classes ranging from film production hierarchy to electrical safety and outdoor demonstrations with live weapons discharging blank cartridges, stunts featuring a full-body burn and pyrotechnic special effects.
“Our ultimate responsibility is to prevent,” said Rodriguez. “We aren’t actually blowing up a car, for example. We are simulating, creating an illusion. It’s all about articulating this activity.”
Enrollees also learn about stunt safety, weapon use and the inherent dangers associated with them.
After the course, fire officers that participate qualify to work on a film set.
The California course is offered two to three times a year and is perhaps the only one of its kind in the nation, according to Lemish and Rodriguez.
Local government agencies aren’t the only ones that enroll in the course, either. On Thursday, three representatives from DeKalb County, Georgia traveled to Castaic for the training.
“They have so much film production in Atlanta, Georgia and the fire departments are finding that they need this training,” said Rodriguez. “We used to have the distinct luxury of calling California the film capital of the world, but now the state is competing with other areas.”
“Safety is of utmost importance on any set, no matter where,” he added.