High heat: Local Firefighters participate in high rise training

Savannah Vasquez

Five fire trucks and about 16 firefighters were on scene at Silver Shells Beach Resort Wednesday ready to spring into action. Thankfully, this large group of first responders was not there for an emergency but instead to train on how to work together in a high-rise fire situation.

The group represented fire stations from across the Northwest Florida region that came together this week to train. The fire departments included in the three-day training were; Destin Fire Control District, Okaloosa Island Fire Department, Ocean City-Wright Fire Department, South Walton Fire District, North Bay Fire Control District, Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field Fire Stations.

“If we ever have a high-rise fire here, these guys will know what to do to get their equipment up in the most efficient way and put the fire out,” said Destin Battalion Chief Bronson Coleman. “We are giving the firefighters familiarization with the building and the elevators and then we will come up with a scenario.”

Destin Fire Chief Kevin Sasser explained the reason for inner-department training is two-fold; to assist other departments with pertinent training unique to the resort area and to learn to work together in the case of a multi-department incident.

“When we have an incident we will use most of the crews on the south end of the county,” he said. “We don’t have the manpower (in Destin) to cover such a big event ourselves so we will have to pull in from the other departments.”

Wednesday’s scenario was a simulated fire on the 11th floor of the resort’s St. Maartin building. When the alarm was tripped, crews began their drill by assessing the switchboard to see what floor and what side of the building the fire was in.

Next the firefighters moved on to the service elevator where they learned to override the mechanics for the safest route to the fire. Every few floors, the group stopped the elevator to check for smoke in the shaft.

Once on the fire floor, the first group attached the hose to the water main in the stairwell and proceeded to the compromised unit. As the scenario played out, crews from different departments checked in via radio and arrived on-scene to relieve the prior crew.

At the end of the training session each crew knew their role in the event and how best to address a fire in a high rise building. Chief Sasser debriefed the group of trainees with some words of encouragement.

“We know that we might not be the first on scene, and you guys are going to have to be the cavalry,” he said to the visiting departments. “We can’t do it alone.”

As for the management of Silver Shells, they said they were elated to help serve local first responders.

“Silver Shells is happy to be involved with this training by offering the property to the community,” said Master of the Condo Association Sandy Andrews.

“For these guys to come together like this, it’s very, very good,” said Silver Shells Maintenance Manager Chuck Cronin. “How Destin gets in the summertime, if the Destin Fire Department is already on calls, they have to lean on each other.”