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LO firefighters get rare training exercise

by: GERT ZOUTENDIJK - Sparks fly as LOFD firefighter Troy Waddell uses a chainsaw to cut a hole in the wall of a building during a training exercise this past weekend.When it comes to fighting fires, it helps to have some experience.

That is what the Lake Oswego Fire Department was able to give its firefighters last weekend at the old Lake Grove Garden Center (soon to be demolished) on Boones Ferry Road.

This time the training amounted to a luxury — three full days of training at a location that offered plenty of room to operate.

Last year’s exercise was held at Our Lady of the Lake School, which was in the process of building new buildings and demolishing some old ones.

“Last year we had only one day,” said Lake Oswego Fire Marshal Gert Zoutendijk. “This time we had three days and that allowed all 42 of our firefighters to take part. It was sort of like fun and games, but we were able to get a lot done. It worked out way better this year.”

With so much time and opportunity, the LOFD went through a series of exercises and situations that included everything except battling real flames. But they did battle real smoke, and that experience will certainly be of great value in the future.

With few restraints on their training, the firefighters were able to put on their full gear and use hoses that were ready to spray water, instead of empty hoses that could be easily maneuvered.

by: GERT ZOUTENDIJK - Firefighter engineer Ted Mass, left, and Lt. Steve Olson discuss scenarios for dealing with the mock fire at a building on Boones Ferry Road.“That makes a huge difference,” Zoutendijk said. “It makes it more challenging for our firefighters.”

The firefighters even got to perform a rescue in a smoke-filled room — with two dummies playing the roles of mother and child. They also walked slowly through the building to carefully study its construction, then they went up on the roof to use chainsaws to cut holes and let out hot gases, allowing them to change the direction of the theoretical fire. They later made a trench cut in the roof so the fire would not spread.

The entire operation was under the direction of LOPD Training Chief Randy Hopkins.

This kind of thorough training was especially important for the newcomers to the LOFD force.

“We can only do so much at our training tower at the Westlake station,” Zoutendijk said. “This kind of opportunity is less and less available, so we take every opportunity we can.”

Cliff Newell can be reached at cnewell@lakeoswegoreview.com and 503-636-1281, ext. 105.

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