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Fire crews train in old Trojan nuclear building

Firefighters work with demolition tactics; victim volunteers contribute


by: PHOTO COURTESY OF COLUMBIA RIVER FIRE & RESCUE - Leif and Chase Nelson (left) and Ronald Smythe, volunteers with the St. Helens Community Emergency Response Team, stand painted and ready to act as victims in a disaster training, put on by Columbia River Fire & Rescue.Although the Trojan Nuclear Plant was closed and its 499-foot-tall cooling tower demolished in 2006, some are still able to put the derelict Portland General Electric property to use.

In March, Columbia River Fire & Rescue personnel used an abandoned building located at the now-defunct Trojan facility in Rainier. Crews were able to train in procedures requiring demolition as the building is slated to be demolished by PGE later this year.

“Trojan is getting ready to demo the building, so they gave us access to train out there,” said CRF&R Division Chief Ron Youngberg. “It was mostly destructive training — cutting holes in walls, forcing holes in doors — that sort of thing.”

Youngberg said Saturday, March 22, was the department’s “big hurrah,” wherein crews wrapped up their training at the facility with a disaster drill. Along with firefighters from CRF&R, crews from the Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District and the Scappoose Rural Fire District participated in the training. Volunteers with the St. Helens Community Emergency Response Team also joined Saturday, posing as live victims for specific rescue drills.

Jennifer Motherway, volunteer coordinator for CRF&R, said CERT volunteers arrived with makeup to make them look as if they were victims of a real disaster.

“We started going out in the beginning of March and were able to do force locked-door openings and cut holes into the walls,” Youngberg said. “Saturday, we put victims throughout the building for firefighters to use the skills we taught them through the month.”

Youngberg said access to the facility was valuable for crews since most training settings don’t offer any demolition opportunities.

Motherway said CRF&R crews train every week at their St. Helens training facility, located behind Wal-Mart. The temporary use of the Trojan building offered a more diverse training setting, she added.

“The last Trojan drill was more or less a big disaster drill,” she said, noting the training was more focused on large buildings, potentially full of bigger crowds. “Crews had more practice from a commercial standpoint.”

“We host the volunteer fire academy there,” she said. “At the end of February, we have the new recruit academy out there every weekend, pulling hose, rescue training, live fire training and climbing ladders.”

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