About 20 Terrace firefighters, both recruit and full-time members, arrived on scene around 7 p.m. at the corner of Sparks St. and Park St. April 17 for a planned exercise in interior rescue operations. (Brittany Gervais photo)

Terrace fire department boosts its abilities with new training regimen

Firefighters get a taste of emergency evac on demolition property

The Terrace Fire Department used a residential house scheduled for demolition on the corner of Sparks St. and Park St. to conduct training exercises for interior rescues.

“We got this house that we’re allowed to cause some damage in because it’s going to be demolished, so it’s an excellent opportunity for crews to get in there,” said Jeffrey Minhinnick, captain of the fire department.

“Nothing really beats an actual house.”

Around 18 firefighters, both recruits and full-time members, arrived on scene around 7 p.m. Tuesday to practice drills which included ventilation, escape and safety techniques.

New members have been training on the weekends for exterior fires but were brought out with full-time crews this week for the interior training program rolled out by the department in February.

Crews were organized into several teams stationed outside, inside and on the roof of the building. In one mock situation, firefighters going in through the main entrance experienced a structural collapse and were trapped inside.

Members punctured through the wall with an axe and rolled out in single-file onto the yard, then began holding back obstructive debris and panelling to help their teammates navigate through to the other side.

“The only way they were able to get out was to breach the wall and climb through to get to the exterior of the building to save themselves,” said Colin Willoner, captain of the Terrace fire department.

Another group of firefighters began climbing up to the roof while others, stationed on a ladder with a revved-up chainsaw in hand, practised horizontal and vertical ventilation techniques.

“It’s a pretty rare type of ventilation that we don’t do too often anymore, it’s used in backdraft situations,” Willoner said.

READ MORE: Terrace Fire Department announces new training program, increased calls in year-end report

In this case, a crew member on the ground holds a ladder in place as another crewmember begins to climb up to the roof, chainsaw in hand. Once the location is reached, the firefighter makes the cut, knocking any decking or boards out of the hole to help vent the interior.

“We try to keep people off the roof because being up on the roof is a pretty dangerous thing to do nowadays, but when you get the opportunity to train that’s what we do,” Willoner said.

A back-draft situation happens under certain conditions when a room is fully charged with heated gas or smoke with no vents. When a large vent becomes available, such as a firefighter opening a door, the fire races outward, rapidly consuming all the incoming oxygen. The effect is essentially a large fireball, presenting a serious risk for firefighters.

“We train to prevent a backdraft situation from happening,” said Dave Jephson, deputy fire chief.

“In the old days we would just break all the windows, but now through different and proper techniques using hydraulics systems or wind ventilation, we can systematically remove the heated smoke and gas inside.”

All full-time members have now completed the interior fire training program and are now working on live-fire demonstrations coming up in May to get new recruit members up to speed by September.



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Two Terrace firefighters practice escaping a trapped situation through the building’s walls to get to the exterior of the house on April 17. (Brittany Gervais photo)

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