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Muscatine Fire Dept. conducts training in vacant Cedar Street home

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Focused on training

The Muscatine Fire Department gathers around a vacant home on Cedar Street, where they conducted a brief training exercise.

MUSCATINE — On Wednesday morning, the Muscatine Fire Department gathered around a vacant home on Cedar Street. Using the house as its fake-emergency setting, the department put on a training exercise for its firefighters.

According to Battalion Chief Ted Hillard, the fire department was given permission to use this vacant home so long as they didn’t cause any damage to it.

“It’s very infrequent that we get these training opportunities,” Hillard said. “Most of the time, (the vacant houses) being torn down or are already in bad enough condition that we can’t do our training, but this one was intact and we were able to go in.”

Using liquid smoke and smoke machines, the fire department made it so the participating firefighters had low visibility within the home, just as they would in the real-life scenario, without damaging the walls of the home.

“We make sure everyone’s following all the rules and safety things that we’re looking at, and it’s more of a teaching aspect for the newer guys who don’t have the experience of being in so many fires,” Hillard said. “Every fire is going to be a little bit different, but we try to teach them what they’re looking for.”

The scenario for the training exercise was that there was a fire on the second floor of the home. This scenario had a couple of small surprise twists that firefighters had to look out for. The first of these trips was a ‘victim’ mannequin discovered on the main floor of the home, which then had to be rescued.

“You never know if somebody’s going to be in the house or not,” Hillard said. “We always do a primary search of the house to make sure that nobody’s home. Even when someone says that everyone’s out, someone else may go back in and the other people there may not know where they’re at.”

The next twist was a scenario where a firefighter was "injured" while putting out the fire. This firefighter then had to be rescued by Rapid Intervention Crew.

“With scenarios like that one, it’s an immediate rescue that has to be done timely, and we have a team set up for that every time that we go in to fight a fire even when there’s not a rescue,” Hillard explained.

Overall, Hillard said he felt the participating firefighters did a great job in that day’s first training scenario.

“We were going to deploy a second one, but then we started getting emergency calls and it kind of broke up our day,” he added, “so we’re hoping to get back over there another day and change people’s positions so that different people can train on different positions, since you never know who’s going to be here that day.”

One critique that Hillard wanted these firefighters to keep in mind was the positioning of the vehicles they used while at the house.

“If we’re on a busy street, we want to position our vehicles so that not only can our vehicles get there, but if we have other vehicles coming like mutual aid or if an ambulance had to leave, we have to keep basic tactics like that in mind.”

Another point that this training enforced was the idea of making sure that each firefighter is getting ready in a timely fashion so that they’re able to enter the building as soon as the fire truck is parked.

“Everything is kind of a ‘hurry-up’ scenario, while at the same time we have to take into consideration all the things that can go wrong and all the safety factors like power lines and access to the house,” Hillard said, adding that these firefighters are taught to always be aware and cautious, as house layout is never exactly the same.

“At the fire service, every day is a training day,” he continued. “We don’t get to schedule emergencies; we could be sitting here having supper and all of a sudden have a river rescue. Whoever’s on-call that day has to jump on that boat and get out there, and we have to get people initiated in their positions, and most times its different people. So with us, it has to be continuous training.”


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