Old town office becomes ‘burning building’ for fire practice

By Rob Vogt, Local Press Writer
Smoke filled the basement of the old town office as firefighters systematically searched for someone trapped inside.
Then one of the firefighters went down, and another. Now the firefighters were searching for their own.
Wading through smoke and the monotonous sound of ringing fire alarms, firefighters located their fallen comrades and dragged them to safety.
It was part of the Claresholm Fire Department’s training night on Wednesday, April 21.
With all operations moved to the new town office and community multi-use building, the Claresholm Fire Department took the opportunity to use the old town office for training purposes.
Craig White, chief of the Claresholm Fire Department, said the exercise simulated a structure fire with someone unable to get out on their own.
The first crew in got to the mannequin, which was 185 pounds, and pulled it to safety.
The second crew simulated two firefighters trapped and needed rescuing.
“That requires additional man power,” White said, adding people were sent from the other side of the scenario to look for the fallen firefighters.
They were located and pulled to safety.
In addition to pulling a 185-pound mannequin, or a 220-plus pound firefighter, the equipment each firefighter wears is about 100 pounds.
Everyone in attendance played a part in the scenario in one fashion or another. Beyond those who went into the building, personnel were operating pumps to make sure hoses had water in them, working at the end of the nozzle, and much more.
White said the fire department likes to do this kind of training quarterly.
Using the old town office added another level of realism.
“Last night was one of the more realistic scenarios we’ve done,” he said, noting they were able to simulate heavy, dense smoke, ringing alarms, and other elements of a structure fire.
That really assisted firefighters because they will go into buildings they may not be familiar with, and this exercise drove that point home.
The exercise, in which White observed, gave Deputy Chief Dallas Woodman the chance to run the scenario.
He got the experience and got comfortable with running the whole scene.
The next training will likely be emergency vehicle training where the department will use a decommissioned runway at the Claresholm airport.
Members will practise serpentines, backing up, avoiding obstacles and much more.
“We want to make sure they work on their skills,” the chief said of all the training they do.