Members of the Central Coventry Fire District joined Cranston and East Greenwich firefighters on Thursday at 275 Atwood Avenue, the former site of the Cranston Police Department, to train within the vacant three-story building.
The Cranston FD has been occasionally utilizing the building that is still equipped with sprinkler and alarm systems for several years, since the city's police department moved into its new location. The Department has been conducting the current training scenarios for about a month and aside from Central Coventry, has also invited Johnston, Warwick and East Greenwich departments to take advantage of the location. CCFD's four platoons will be switching off in shifts during three additional training sessions this Friday as well as next Monday and Wednesday.
"It is a different element of firefighting to train in this type of commercial building and it's a really unique opportunity for our guys that doesn't present itself too often," said CCFD Captain Dave Gorman.
During Thursday's session, Coventry, Cranston and East Greenwich firefighters focused on hoseline advancement and management, search and rescue, ventilation, incident command and radio communication. A smoke machine and fire simulator were used to re-create the harrowing situation of a multi-level building fire in which a small child was trapped. Smoke-filled rooms combined with various furniture items, doorways, and halls littered with loose wiring provided the unfamiliar conditions that firefighters may face each time they report to work.
"During training, we just want everyone to get the feeling of what it's like in these situations," said Cranston Lt. Will Morrocco. "You never know what you're going to be faced with. It could be anything."
Cranston Deputy Chief Jim Beckman explained that members of his department are continuously training for various aspects of the job, including driving, aerial placement studies and hazardous materials to name a few. Evidence of these types of trainings can be found within the Atwood Ave. location in the form of a makeshift meth lab for hazmat training and a roof simulator constructed on top of the building for teaching ventilation techniques.
"We're always training for some part of the job," said Deputy Chief Beckman. "It's important to focus on even the small things that you forget if you don't revisit them."
Ronald Preston, CCFD Acting Lieutenant and Field Training Officer, stressed how important these types of training opportunities are for fire departments and how he and his fellow firefighters will benefit from their time spent at the Cranston location throughout their four sessions.
"We're definitely joyful for the chance to be with working with other departments that like to teach and train," he said. "The addition of Chief (Andrew) Baynes and his networking to Central Coventry has opened up many opportunities to train with other departments and the experiences are invaluable."
When the firefighters gave me, Coventry Patch Editor Lauren Costa, the chance to suit up in full turnout gear and breating apparatus to experience the simulated building fire, I quickly learned that extensive training is a must. Let me tell you, trudging up multiple stairways with an extra 50 pounds of weight attached to you, while attempting to maneuver through unseen obstacles and nearly blinding smoke in an unfamiliar setting is tough - not to mention quite unnerving. Attempting to find your way back to safety through all of that is even harder, and I knew that it wasn't a real emergency situation.
"We do this in the middle of the night, in places that we don't know the layout at all, knowing that we only have about six minutes to find the small child that is in there somewhere," said Deputy Chief Beckman as I made my way back out of the building. "That is why a big part of what we're doing today is about coordination and communication during an incident like this."
"We got a lot out of this," said Acting Lt. Preston. "If we can go to work each day and learn something new, we're definitely better off."