Firefighters on the West Plains received some in-depth training Saturday, March 16 next to St. John’s Lutheran Church in Medical Lake, participating in a house burn on the 200 block of South Hallett Street
The church, which owned property next to the main building, donated a vacant house for training purposes. Medical Lake’s Fire Department went through the house, which was in major disrepair, removing any potential hazardous material.
Fire Chief Jason Mayfield said the house was going to be demolished regardless, and using it to help train firefighters would go great distances.
“They were going to knock the house down and offered it up to us for training,” he said.
Fire crews put up extra sheetrock throughout the house in order to prolong its structure and offer as much training time as possible. The Fire Department sent out notices to homes in a two-block radius regarding the training.
“We’ve been training in it for a while,” Mayfield said. “We’ll send some guys in to get good experience.”
Crews from Airway Heights and Spokane County Fire District 3 were also included in the training, which took up most of the day.
The three department fire chiefs offered different scenarios for teams rotating throughout the day, providing the best possible experience. Stacked wood pallets fueled fires inside the house. Winds during the day kicked up to around 25 mph.
The experience of working with the crews, gaining trust with each other, translates into success when battling a real fire call. Knowing how each of the departments operate and the personnel on each crew goes a long way.
“It’s invaluable,” Mayfield said. “You can’t put a price tag on the opportunity to actually get into a house that has fire burning in it. We can go to the training tower and simulate it as much as possible, but to have a real house is invaluable.”
The house burn is only the second since 1999, when Mayfield first arrived in the department. Given the rare chance to provide a live fire situation, “This is a great opportunity for us,” Mayfield said. “We don’t get them very often.”
James Eik can be reached at email@example.com.