Facility allows live fire training

by:  ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Sometimes firefighters start fires too. A firefighter walks back through the smoke after lighting straw on fire in the Training Tower across the street from the Estacada Rural Fire District No. 69 station. Firefighters were practicing their firefighting skills during a live burn training.So they may not be playing with fire, but they’re certainly training with it.

Shortly after 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, Estacada firefighters were starting a fire in the Training Tower across the street from the station.

One firefighter lit straw on fire in a room constructed to be akin to an apartment or residence while another firefighter kept a watchful eye to make sure nothing went wrong.

Other firefighters then came to practice extinguishing the flames with a hose.

by:  ISABEL GAUTSCHI - As firefighters prepare to extinguish flames, they stay close to the ground below the thick cloud of smoke gathering at the ceiling.Outside, several fire corps volunteers set up a rehab unit, just as they would during a real fire situation.

Volunteer Connie Redmond explained that fire corps volunteers are dispatched to residential and brush fires to set up a rehab unit with water, Gatorade, coffee, etc.

The fire corps volunteers check firefighters’ blood pressure to make sure they are cleared to return to the fire.

“You don’t really realize how much these guys put into it until you go out on a fire,” Redmond said. “It’s physically demanding.”

Fire officials explained that the Jan. 29 live fire in the Training Tower was “relatively easy” as far as fires go.

“There are many other aspects that are getting exercised,” Fire Chief Bob Morrisey wrote in an email. “Fire officers and potential officers get an opportunity to arrive at the fire in the engine, report what they see on the radio (we call that a “size-up”) and quickly develop a plan of attack. This must be done while maintaining the accountability and safety of the firefighters.”

Morrisey explained they use different scenarios for the trainings so that the firefighters don’t experience the same thing each drill.

The fire department usually holds live burn trainings in the Training Tower once a month or more frequently during recruitment or training acadamies.

“There is no annual requirements for live fire training,” Morrisey explained. “New firefighters must have a set amount of live fire training before they can become certified to respond. Most of the other live fire trainings occur during our weekly drills. Career and Volunteer firefighters must maintain a minimum number of hours of training annually to maintain their certifications.”

The Estacada Rural Fire District No. 69 received a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters grant for the Training Tower three years ago.

Morrisey said it’s the only such facility “in our part of the county.”

Other fire districts often train in it.

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