Members of the Spokane Valley Fire Department recently trained on an acquired structure.
An acquired structure is a building that is going to be torn down, and the owners are willing to let the fire department use it for important training purposes. Every acquired structure must go through a process of risk abatement, as well as addressing any environmental concerns. After these have been mitigated, the structure is ready for training. All training is performed like it would be in an actual fire operation with an incident commander, a safety officer, and a thorough incident action plan.
Training on an acquired structure is an invaluable experience for everyone involved, giving the fire crews the chance to do their training on an unfamiliar building, which is very difficult to duplicate at the department’s training center. It is optimal training because crews literally do not know what it looks like inside, how the rooms are laid out, or even where doors lead. They simply do not know anything about the interior which makes for a much more realistic training scenario.
Crews experienced room to room search drills, thermal imaging camera drills, vent enter-search drills, and roof operations.
Room to room drills had crews conducting room to room searches, in a coordinated fashion, accounting for closets, stairs, bathrooms, attics, basements, and every variable you can imagine, all while looking for a trapped victim. Every crew member will take something away from doing this activity.
Fire crews used their thermal imaging camera to check for fire extension. After the obvious part of any fire is extinguished, fire crews also need to search where the fire might be hiding out of view. This is called checking for extension and it is a critical part of any fire operation. Although there will not be any actual fire during our training, the layout and design features of the building will offer hints to experienced and rookie firefighters alike as to where the fire might hide in a real fire situation.
As you can imagine, there is not much extension to check in a concrete training tower, so having an actual house with its different nooks, crannies, ceilings, walls, and attics spaces is highly valuable.
The crews practiced Vent-Enter-Search. This is a first on-scene crew operation in response to a possible trapped victim. The crews will go through a window, very quickly searching a room, closing any doors between them and the fire, then exit that window again with the victim if there is one.
Lastly, the ladder companies practiced vertical ventilation, cutting holes in the roof to both lower the temperature and increase the visibility in the structure. This is done in a coordinated effort with fire suppression crews to help them enter the building and extinguish the fire. Coordination during this and every phase of a fire is critical.
The Spokane Valley fire department is very grateful to those who contribute a building for this type of training opportunity.