West Valley View, Avondale, Arizona, Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Fire drill offers real learning lesson
by Sara Clawson staff writer
Smoke is reported coming out of a two-story structure with possible victims inside. The Buckeye Fire Department responds by sending a truck and crew to the structure, at 115 S. Seventh St., just three miles from Station 701.
The perimeter of the scene is secured, a line is set up and firefighters enter the building.
Soon after, a fireman carries a body out of the smoke-filled cavity and to a designated medical area, where uniformed professionals are quick to assess the situation and give care to the lifeless form. Before long an all-clear signal is given;
the fire is out. This was no ordinary fire. It was deliberately set by firemen and used as a practice scenario. “We’re proactively training for the
A dispatcher puts the scenario in motion:
worst,” Buckeye Fire Department Captain Tommy Taylor said.
The drills are conducted at a state- of-the-art training tower that is a collaboration of the fire department and Glendale Community College. It was built in 2007; the college contributed $200,000 toward the cost and Buckeye put in $300,000 from the town budget, Taylor said. It costs an estimated $30,000 annually to run the facility. The building is fairly indestructible as it is made of old metal shipping containers. It is shared by surrounding agencies that also use it for fire drills, said Capt. Pete Shiple, of the Buckeye Fire Department. He led last week’s drill for the BFD, Tonopah Valley and Buckeye Valley fire departments. “This is going to be a learning lesson for all
of us,” he said while giving firefighters a pre- drill tour of the five-story structure. He pointed out sources of ventilation, stairwells, and exits while fielding questions. Real people do not play victims, but
heavy pieces of fire hose are looped together to resemble bodies and placed throughout the building to be rescued. “As we go through this, we need to
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View photo by Michael Clawson
A BUCKEYE FIREFIGHTER moves hoses into place after arriving to the scene of a fire during a training drill April 4 in Buckeye. Firefighters used a four-story stack of shipping containers to run through fire scenarios.
start refining our abilities. If we find a dummy and we just flop him right out of the doorway and then we’re back in there soaking up all the heat and goodness … if that was a real deal, if that was your family member and loved one, is that what you’d truly do? Drop them at the front door and go on?” Shiple said. The exercise is as much about putting out
fires as it is about communicating, he said. “This isn’t to single you out or to
demoralize you. There’s some real growing things here,” he said. “We’re going to work with other agencies and see how we do it here in the town of Buckeye may be different than how they do it in Tonopah.
“Communication is going to be big today, as it usually is. That’s anyone’s biggest opportunity, whether they’ve been on a fire or not — we always lack in communication. We can do better at it, more of it or even less
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at times,” Shiple said. The different departments work together on the scenario to get a first-hand look at how a fellow agency would handle the situation, Taylor said. At the end of the day everyone regroups and discusses what worked and what could have worked better. “I always tell my guys, be prepared for
the worst because you never know. When you get that call, you never know what it’s going to be,” he said.
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