Vacant buildings offer training opportunity for firefighters

Published 11:49 pm Thursday, August 26, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Motorists stopped at the intersection of 11th and Silverbrook had to wonder what was going on at the vacant B&L Inn building Wednesday night.
Firefighters from Niles City, Niles Township and Bertrand Township Fire Departments took part in training exercises in the vacant building, as well as another right next door.
The training, which was hosted by the Niles City Fire Department, was set up to stimulate residential commercial fires.
The buildings were offered to the fire department for training before they were to be demolished Thursday.
Iwaniuk, the training officer in charge of the exercise, walked fire fighters through the exercise and participated himself.
The departments practiced search and rescue operations, as well as specialized techniques like saving a downed fire fighter during a blaze.
No fires were started for the training. The exercises could have been described as dry runs, but with all the water used, that description would be slightly wrong.
Training exercises are mandated by the National Fire Protection Association. Full-time fire fighters are required to undergo 24 hours per month of training.
The Insurance Service Office also requires fire fighters to undergo training exercises. The ISO evaluates fire departments across the country and local insurance rates are determined by those evaluations, Niles City Fire Chief Larry Lamb said.
The Niles City Fire Department's last ISO evaluation was in 1984. The ISO will be evaluating the department on Sept. 13.
For the search and rescue parts of the exercises, the buildings were filled with a non-toxic smoke to simulate the conditions fire fighters would experience during a real fire.
The departments practiced fighting fires with master streams. Master streams are hoses that generally pump out over 500 gallons of water per minute, Lamb explained.
Other techniques that were practiced included ventilating a building to control a blaze, and fire fighter rescue procedures.
Ventilating a building involves opening a hole or holes in the roof of the building to let heat escape, increasing the chances of the fire being controlled quickly, Iwaniuk said.
Rapid Intervention Team training was also practiced. RITs are called in to fires to rescue fire fighters who go down or are found to be missing while fighting a fire.
Crews also practiced basement rescue techniques. Crews practiced how to widen holes in floors and lift fallen fire fighters through the holes.