Fire drill: Former medical clinic becomes a training ground
By Nikki Best
You’re trapped. It’s pitch black. Smoke scratches your eyes and lungs. It’s hot, you’re drenched in sweat. Fire’s beating at the door, calling your name. What do you do?
Boom! Go through the wall, of course.
Almost 60 firefighters and volunteers from Midway Fire and Rescue practiced for this situation and more this week. The old Smith Medical Clinic building was donated for the fire department’s training.
“It’s breaching walls,” Fire Chief Doug Eggiman said. “It’s not really something you get to do every day, and this is sort of the perfect scenario.”
The firefighters work 24 hours on duty followed by 48 hours off duty. The three-day training was designed to allow everyone, including the department chaplain, to have a chance to run the scenarios and practice.
“I’ve been once already,” the Rev. Wil Keith, Midway’s chaplain, said. “I’ll go in a couple more times.” As the rector of Holy Cross-Faith Memorial Episcopal Church, he played a big part in coordinating the use of the building.
“It’s a joy to give that to them,” he said. “This way the building gets to give the community one last gift.”
The department designed several scenarios. Each one concentrated on search and rescue, breaching walls and putting out fires. They didn’t actually set the building on fire, though. For the safety of the firefighters, during training exercises the building must be maintained structurally.
“We don’t want it to look like something terrible happened,” he said.
Firefighter Chris Holmes exited the part of the building that was filled with smoke in full gear carrying a charged hose. He used it to put out the fire inside.
“Simulated fire,” he said.
The building will be torn down eventually. It’s been vacant since January when the clinic moved to its new facility across the street. The inside was stripped. Habitat for Humanity took anything that could be sold at its ReStore.
“The guys did a walk through, the planning team, and decided what sort of training could be done on the building,” Keith said.
For search and rescue, the firefighters rescue a 175-pound dummy instead of a real person. For training it helps to not use real people as victims because they might get hurt and they tend to try to help the rescuer.
“The dummy can actually be a little bit more challenging,” Eggiman said.
Each house-fire call the department makes has an aspect of search to it, provided they make it to the interior of the structure. Whether searching for flames to douse, safe passage or victims, it’s all part of the job. It’s tough to predict how often each type of call will happen.
“I’ve seen us go to one or two a month, I remember several years ago in DeBordieu we were there constantly,” Eggiman said.
Midway wants to be ready for anything at any time. “We have a tremendous wildland urban interface in our area,” Eggiman said.
Since the department is the first response for Brookgreen Gardens and Huntington Beach State Park, they are all trained in basic wildland fire containment. There are a “half dozen or so” firefighters on the wildland team and two who attended federal wildland training Florida. The training makes the firefighters a valuable asset around the state and country. The Upstate dealt with devastating fires in November, and Midway responded.
“We sent a [breathing] apparatus and four guys up there,” Eggiman said.
At Pinnacle Mountain, they spent four days, daylight to dark, cutting trees and digging fire lines. It was valuable experience, he said. Valuable like the training done a little closer to home this week.
“The time to first experience breaching a wall, the time you really don’t want to have to do that is in the heat of the moment,” Eggiman said. No pun intended.
Getting prepared: Midway Fire Rescue trains at Holy Cross Church
South Strand News Article
By Clayton Stairs
Firefighters and rescue personnel from Midway Fire Rescue had a unique experience this week: training inside an unknown structure with no visibility.
Midway held the training at the former home of Smith Medical Clinic on the campus of Holy Cross Faith Memorial Church.
That building will soon be demolished since the clinic has a new home, also on the church campus.
Firefighters had the opportunity to run downed-firefighter rescue drills, exterior wall egress, ladder placement, escape techniques, search and rescue squad operations and rehab operations.
Batallion Chief Josh Carney was overseeing the training on March 20.
He said this type of training is very important."
Having a building where we can go in, flow water, use our tools, and not be worried about damaging anything is invaluable," he said.
"With the layout of the building, we are fortunate we can do multiple scenarios at the same time to simulate a natural structure fire, under semi-real conditions."Midway Chief Doug Eggiman, who came by to observe the training, said that this type of training is the best time to figure out what should and should not be done in a real fire.
"The time to do that for the first time is not when you are in the middle of a fire, but unfortunately that is how it happens sometimes," Eggiman said.
"It's not every day you get an opportunity like this."The Rev. Wil Keith, rector of Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church and volunteer chaplain of Midway Fire Rescue, and other church leaders made the facility available for training before it is demolished for parking for the clinic and the church.“
This building that has faithfully served the people of this community for so many years is past its useful life,” Keith said.
“As we give thanks for the building and these ministries this week, we are pleased that residents served by Habitat for Humanity – and the teams from Midway Fire Rescue – benefit from the building before it is removed.”
Lunches provided by Moe's Original Barbecue were served by teams of church volunteers each day to firefighters and medics.
Eggiman said the church allowing Midway Fire Rescue to use the building is a good example of the support Midway gets from the community.
"This is a perfect scenario because not only are they letting us train in the building, but they are feeding us lunch," he said.
"It means a lot to us, and it means a lot to our firefighters."
Carney said there were four stations, the first one being with heavy "smoke" from a smoke machine and the windows covered.
With no visibility, firefighters had to find the fire inside, which was a cone with a flashlight and a heating device to set off the firefighters' thermal imaging cameras, then put water on it using a fire hose.The second station was a simulation of a downed firefighter, which was actually a dummy."
We activated our rapid intervention team to go into the building, locate downed fireman and switch his air bottle out, because he is low on air," Carney said.
"Then they get him out."
Another station was using a saw to cut rebar to simulate getting into a building with bars on the windows.
Firefighters also went up to the roof to simulate finding rafters and cutting a hole in the roof, although they could not actually cut holes because it is uncertain how long the building will stand before it is demolished, Carney said.
"Everybody rotates so each group will go through each station," he said. "Then we will go back through and change the scenarios a little bit. The idea is to get as many repetitions in as possible."