In an old, abandoned neighborhood, the calm was broken as firefighters rushed through thick clouds of smoke, broke through windows, doors and roofs, and simulated rescues of their brothers in arms.
The Camp Pendleton Fire Department and North County Area Fire Departments demonstrated their duties by maneuvering their way through several pseudo-fire scenarios in the old base housing units at Naval Weapons Station Fallbrook, Jan. 6.
Since the old structures are scheduled for demolition, the U. S. Navy donated them to the fire departments to use for advanced training.
More than 160 federal and state firefighters conducted this training from Jan. 3-7 in order for personnel to increase their abilities in all aspects of firefighting.
“These homes are more than 30-years-old and have made it through their useful life,” said Tony Winicki, director, Naval Weapons Station, Seal Beach Detachment, Fallbrook. “Active duty members no longer live in these homes, so in an effort to save taxpayers money, we can eliminate these underutilized structures to reduce infrastructure.”
Once the homes are demolished, the land will be cleared out and returned to its natural state.
Since NWS Fallbrook has built and renovated several new housing facilities, these vacant homes created the perfect opportunity for firefighters to gain practical experience in a controlled environment.
“It’s important to get together with other agencies in case we’re understaffed and need extra help,” said Bill Gick, fire inspector, Camp Pendleton Fire Department. “We were fortunate to have these structures donated because it provided us with grounds to practice, which is always a must.”
The firefighters conducted five scenarios that included positive pressure attack, vertical ventilation, rapid intervention, forcible entry and search and rescue.
Positive pressure attack is a ventilation technique where a fan is placed by the door to remove heated air, smoke and toxins from a confined area. Once the hot air is released, it allows for fresh air to enter the room.
“We’re trying to push positive pressure attacks as our initial fire attack,” said Lt. Carlos Camarena, Camp Pendleton Fire Department. “It allows us to have a safer initial entry and get a more direct route to the origin of the fire.”
Vertical ventilation is another technique which is designed for the firefighters to ventilate the building through the roof so the gases can escape harmlessly into the air.
Rapid intervention is an insurance policy for all fire agencies. The objective for this procedure is for them to locate and rescue lost, trapped and/or injured firefighters on scene.
“Our main objective is to increase survivability, working time and visibility,” said Camarena. “The faster we can get in, the faster we can get out.”
Forcible entry is an efficient and effective way to break through the building when deemed necessary.
“The time spent making an entry of a home can directly affect the spread and intensity of the fire,” said Camarena. “With citizens having advanced security in their homes, knowledge and expertise in forcible entry are necessary in order to reach the victim and fire quickly.”
The final technique practiced was search and rescue, which is often considered the most hazardous duty a firefighter can perform. Search and rescue is the removal and treatment of victims from situations that could potentially worsen a fire.
“Each firefighter must be able to conduct an effective search,” Camarena said. “If victims are found, it is important for the firefighters to be able to successfully and safely remove them from the dangerous area.”
Camp Pendleton’s Fire Emergency Services respond to an estimated 3,000 emergency calls every year, said Gick, which makes training and practice imperative.
“Just when you think you know everything, a new situation arises and you have to adapt,” said Gick. “That’s why we have to train so hard.”
In addition to fire emergencies, the department also responds to medical, rescue and vehicle emergencies. In the event of a crisis, base residents should call the Camp Pendleton Fire Department at (760) 725-3333, or call 911.