GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Firefighters regularly run into smoke-filled buildings, but it’s not often they get to practice doing so without anything on the line.
“You only get one shot to make a rescue. You only get one shot to get yourself out alive,” Midway Fire Rescue Chief Doug Eggiman said. “The opportunity to do something like this where it’s kind of a consequence-free environment where if something does go wrong or you did something not the way it was supposed to be done, there’s no consequences.”
Monday through Wednesday, Midway Fire Rescue firefighters will practice their skills in the former Smith Medical Clinic building on the grounds of Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church.
“Our ability to do this is kind of limited to our opportunities,” Eggiman said. “Every time we get an opportunity, we do it.”
The Smith Medical Clinic recently moved into a new building, and it provides free medical care for people without insurance.
Reverend Will Keith, rector at Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church and also chaplain for Midway Fire Rescue, said the former building is set for demolition sometime later this spring.
The space will then be used for parking, but first, Midway Fire Rescue firefighters are benefiting from the empty shell.
“This is an opportunity they don’t often get, to practice on a building that they don’t know the layout in,” Keith said. “So they go in blind and search for dummies and attack a fire in an unfamiliar place.”
Eggiman said it’s difficult to find structures that will work for training because they need to still be structurally safe for the firefighters. Using the former medical clinic building is a valuable opportunity.
“Our community has always been incredibly supportive of our fire department, especially the church groups, so this is just another example,” he said.
A variety of exercises – fire attack, and search and rescue – helped firefighters practice a number of skills and scenarios. They broke out of rooms, ventilated a fire through a roof and used the department’s new circular saws to cut through rods, among other training activities. A smoke machine was used, and the windows were covered to create a low-visibility situation without anything at stake.
“The time not to do some of these things for the first time in a year or the first time ever is when the fire is actually happening,” Eggiman said.
Training continues through Wednesday because the department has three shifts. Eggiman said he hopes to use the building for another training exercise before it gets demolished.
“It’s really pretty much walls and interior doors and stuff like that where we can go in and do what we want to do without worrying about the after-effects,” he said.
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