Fire and water – Firefighters train in flooded homes

If you’ve been concerned that houses in your neighborhood won’t stop burning and have continued to smoke up the neighborhood for the last few weeks then you no longer need to worry. The Minot Fire Department has been conducting training drills in several homes in town recently.

On Tuesday afternoon they were praciticing search and rescue training, or “S.A.R. training,” at 117-4th Ave. Northwest along the Souris River. The home is one of many damaged homes acquired by the City of Minot following the 2011 flood and marked for firefighter use before eventually being demolished.

“Basically we’re training a lot of our younger guys, just getting them comfortable with being in an environment as close as possible to the real thing,” said John Krill, a battalion commander for the Minot Fire Department.

The new recruits wear yellow helmets and there were at least four new firefighters battling smoke to pull dummies and mannequins out of the smoke-flooded home on that windy Tuesday. The smoke, though, is provided by a smoke machine and is not a controlled burn, lessening worries for area residents and the firefighters themselves. The machines make the same smoke common at rock concerts for pyrotechnic effect. Krill said the use of smoke machines as opposed to the real thing was for “environmental purposes.”

“We don’t really do controlled burns anymore. It’s kind of a thing of the past,” Krill said. “Then we have a burn building at our training grounds where we actually take wood and hay and straw and ignite that to expose them to the heart of a fire. There’s no heat here today.”

Still, the firefighters were unable to see well through the thick smoke and put on their firemasks to keep it out of their eyes and lungs as they carried mangled baby dolls and floppy dummies from areas throughout the house. They also simulated a firefighter being disabled by the smoke.

During training, a firefighter will fall on the ground and the other firefighters practice the necessary steps to secure and protect the fallen.

The house on Fourth Avenue Northwest is just one of several on that street alone, although it is the main house they practice S.A.R. training. Other homes they’ve been permitted to use can be found on East Central Avenue. Altogether Krill says they have six homes to use.

“A lot of these homes were damaged in the flood and we’re making good use of them by making a good thing out of a not-so-good thing that happened to the homes before they’re razed or torn down,” Krill said. “They (the City of Minot) figured that these homes … were beyond repair so they allowed us to train in them.”

The training almost came in handy that day, too, as Krill and some of the firefighters in that training session could be seen responding to a fire call for an apartment building on 32nd Avenue Southwest. Although the fire was a minor one and was put out by residents and police before firefighters arrived on the scene, the firefighters used their expertise to ensure the fire did not spread.