Firefighters simulate structure collapse at vacant Niles home

Submitted photo Thanks to Selge Construction, firefighters were able to simulate a structural collapse for training purposes at this home on Ontario Street in Niles.

Submitted photo
Thanks to Selge Construction, firefighters were able to simulate a structural collapse for training purposes at this home on Ontario Street in Niles.

To a passerby it might have looked like a tornado randomly hit a single home in Niles Township over the weekend.

In reality, firefighters from multiple area departments were conducting joint training exercises that included dropping trees into a home and collapsing a porch.

It was all part of an effort to make the greater Niles area safer.

“It is extremely beneficial because it is not something we normally get the opportunity to do,” said Chief Gary Brovold, of Niles Township Fire Department. “We’ve never been able to push a tree through a house and then figure out how to get to the people inside.”

The training exercise took place at a vacant residence at 1217 Ontario St. that is owned by Selge Construction Company. Located directly to the west of the property, Selge Construction allowed firefighters to use the building for training purposes as Selge planned to have it torn down anyway to make way for an expansion project.

Brovold thanked Marv Selge, owner of Selge Construction, for the opportunity.

“We deeply appreciate the local businesses that are willing to work with us when they have something like this,” Brovold said. “It is extremely difficult to find these buildings we can use for these situations. It’s an ideal situation for us.”

City of Niles and Niles Township firefighters participated in the exercises, which were conducted on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday.

Some of the firefighters are also members of Michigan’s Fifth District Rescue Team, which provides specialized response to disasters like a structural collapse or a rope rescue.

Brovold said mannequins were placed inside the home prior to the trees being dropped.

The situation allowed the technical rescue team to support the structure enough in order to reach the “victims” inside. Other training exercises were also conducted.

A tree company and member of Selge Construction helped drop trees onto the house.

The tree company also used equipment to knock down the front porch.

Approximately 15 firefighters took part in the training.

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