Sixty firefighters from 11 Trumbull County fire departments got a rare opportunity Friday to practice entering a large, commercial building, ventilating its roof and using “big water” on it.
The opportunity came courtesy of home-improvement retailer Menards, which is preparing to demolish the former Walmart store on Elm Road soon to make way for construction of a new Menard’s store.
The company allowed firefighters to use the building for a daylong exercise that involved cutting holes in the entrances and spraying water on imaginary fires.
Most fire departments don’t fight a lot of fires involving commercial structures, so they don’t get a lot of experience with them, said Bazetta Fire Chief Dennis Lewis.
“They [commercial structures] don’t have many fires because they generally have sprinkler systems and have to meet more strict building codes, but they can happen, so firefighters need to be prepared,” Lewis said.
“I could fight a house fire all day every day, but to work on a commercial structure is invaluable,” said Capt. Brian Taylor of the Bazetta Fire Department, event coordinator.
Capt. Rodney Freel of the Niles Police Department said the exercise is relevant to his department because of the large number of commercial structures in the city. He said the roof ventilation was especially important, he said.
“It’s been good. The instructors have been good. I’ve learned new techniques today,” he said.
Firefighters were divided into four groups that rotated about every two hours through four stations: forced entry, rooftop ventilation, working with sprinkler systems and using large volumes of water.
Besides Bazetta and Niles, the departments that participated were Burghill-Vernon, Howland, Cortland, Mecca, Braceville, Eagle Joint Fire District, Champion, Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Warren City and two fire departments from the Cleveland area.