KITCHENER -- A fire at a vacant home in St. Marys will help train firefighters for when they need to respond to a real emergency.

The home was filled with thick black smoke for the training exercise on Tuesday evening.

"Roughly zero visibility and they're faced with multiple challenges," said Captain Kevin Edwards with the St. Marys Fire Department.

New recruits and seasoned volunteer firefighters had to deal with the challenges head-on.

"I think it's as realistic as we can get to actual live scenarios," volunteer Sarah Black said.

The vacant home was donated to the fire department for training purposes.

"To get a house like this and use that training, test our abilities, wearing SCBAs and the equipment and that, practicing our skills so that, in the event of a real emergency, we know that we're prepared for that," Fire Chief Richard Anderson said.

Firefighters practiced search-and-rescue drills, setting up different scenarios and using mannequins.

"The guys don't know where they are," Anderson explained. "They'll go into the building not knowing, do their search like they're supposed to and bring out the victims."

"They're using the tool, hand on the wall sweeps, holding on to each other, getting into the middle of the room," Edwards said. "They're doing a fantastic job."

It's dark inside the home, but crews said they're never flying blind.

"You may not be able to see anything, but you've got your team on the inside and on the outside," Black said.

The volunteers said the training will help them prepare for real emergencies down the road.