Old fire department still useful for joint-county training

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Joe McFadden
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
When the old Hurlburt Field fire department closed last summer, many expected the building would no longer serve a purpose before being demolished.

The abandoned station, constructed in 1954, had been through decades of wear and had endured many storms along the base flightline.

But when retired Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Remedies, assistant fire chief at the Hurlburt Field Fire Department, planned an Okaloosa County Joint Training Council session at Hurlburt Field Jan. 13-15, the building would be the centerpiece of the event.

Rather than give presentations in a conference room, Chief Remedies and firefighters from the Hurlburt Field, Fort Walton Beach, Ocean City-Wright, Okaloosa Island, Florosa, Mary Esther and Escambia County fire departments took chainsaws, axes and hammers to the roof and walls of the old station for the three-day training event, the first of its kind on base.

"Very seldom do we get to practice on a structure like this," he said. "This gave us a real world demonstration, and it's more effective when we need it."

While the event was coordinated by the base fire department, battalion chiefs from the civilian fire departments led the instructions on forcible entry and cross ventilation on two different parts of the building.

"The more we practice together and further our familiarization with each department's techniques, the better off we will be when we have to come together for mutual aid," Chief Remedies said.

Curt Isaacson, Escambia County Fire Department battalion chief, demonstrated how to force open different types of doors and break through certain locks to get inside a building.

"This was excellent," he said. "We're also building respect and esprit de corps between each fire department for what they do."

The re-entry portion also included cutting doors while offensively or defensively fighting fires. The placement and size of each opening can make a difference in how firefighters can maintain control of a water hose and where firefighters can rush in to save lives.

"We got to cut roller doors, something we've never done in training," Chief Remedies said, while pointing to the large doors on the garage that once housed the base's fire engines.

When firefighters completed the training inside the building, they ascended a ladder to the roof where Daniel Fureigh, battalion chief for the Fort Walton Beach Fire Department, taught how ventilation can be used to fight a fire. Teams used chainsaws and axes over specific sections with the location of the fire and the building's structural integrity in mind.

Normally, firefighters can cut a workable section of a roof in four minutes, Chief Remedies said. Yet with many layers of roofing and tar used to seal the layers in place, cutting through the roof took twice as much time.

"This roof has been rebuilt so many times, it's very different from a commercial building," Chief Fureigh said. "It's good practice, and everything we do here helps us when we're trying to save lives in a real situation."

With the building scheduled for demolition next month, Chief Remedies said the chance to use the station one last time was a great opportunity.

"We took advantage by performing actual firefighting operations without simulation," he said. "Our firefighters gained valuable hands-on experience in a controlled environment, and it was as close to the real thing as we can possibly get."