[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                               November 14, 2008
Training

Fire Department personnel 
battle planned structure fire

By Rob Schuette, The Real McCoy Staff

Tear down/removal of old housing on Fort McCoy provided an ideal opportunity for the Fort McCoy Fire Department firefighters to practice their firefighting skills.

Photo: Fort McCoy Fire Department personnel prepare to 'fight' a structural fire in a housing structure scheduled for demolition. (Photo by Rob Schuette)
Fort McCoy Fire Department personnel prepare to 'fight' a structural fire in a housing structure scheduled for demolition. (Photo by Rob Schuette)

Housing constructed from 1917-41 was scheduled for tear down after the construction of 12 new military family housing units, said Sherry Oslie, Directorate of Public Works Family Housing manager.

The tear down was contracted to Dakota Intertek, with Robinson Brothers, Inc., completing the demolition.

Marin Milewski, an assistant fire chief for the Fort McCoy Directorate of Emergency Services, said the fire department negotiated to secure one of the facilities to support structural fire training.

"We had used an old commanderís house on North Post to train on smoke-generated scenarios back in the 1990s," Milewski said. "We had never burned an acquired structure."

Smoke ventilation training, including forced-entry techniques, was conducted in facilities in the old hospital area of the installationís 1000 block, which eventually were demolished.

Firefighters have responded to structural fires at the installation over the years, with the last major fire reported being at building 2160 in August 2001, according to the archives of the Triad/The Real McCoy.

Milewski said the fire department has a simulation burn tower, located near the crash rescue station on South Post to conduct fire training. Firefighters generally conduct firefighting-related training every quarter at Fort McCoy.

Photo: An uninhabited housing structure burns as part of a Fire Department training exercise on structural fires. (Photo by Fort McCoy Fire Department)
An uninhabited housing structure burns as part of a Fire Department training exercise on structural fires. 
(Photo by Fort McCoy Fire Department)

"But thereís really nothing like using a real-life structure to get the realism involved in a real fire," Milewski said. "That can include things like taking into account the soundness of the structure, the weather and wind conditions. That canít be duplicated or reproduced in the training center."

The training center is made of noncombustible materials so it doesnít provide firefighters with the opportunity to do risk assessments and take proper safety precautions to ensure the fire doesnít spread, he said.

Milewski said the fire department carefully considered all safety possibilities before choosing and requesting the facility to burn down as a training exercise. Coordination had to be done with the contractor (Dakota Intertek of New Berlin, Wis.) involved in the project and the Army Corps of Engineers (which oversaw the construction/removal project) and the installation.

"DPW Housing is appreciative the general contractor, Dakota Intertek, was willing and able to coordinate and support the fire training request for the Fort McCoy Fire Department," Oslie said.

Fire Department personnel Curt Ladwig, Todd Swansby and Ted Richmond helped complete the intensive process to get permission to burn down the structure, Milewski said.

Because the last large-scale fire at Fort McCoy was in 2001, Milewski said the exercise gave valuable training experience to members of the department.

"Some personnel have actual experience fighting a structure fire through their service here or as volunteer firefighters in adjoining communities," he said. "Some personnel donít have any experience. This gave them a chance to learn a lot and sit down and share and exchange their experiences during an After-Action Review."

"It also gave members of the fire department the experience of responding to/handling a large incident, while other members of the fire department remained on duty to handle any other firefighting needs/duties that might occur during that time," he added.

 

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