Members of the current firefighting academy pull a “victim” to safety from the new search and rescue prop (Cari Coll Photo).

Members of the current firefighting academy pull a “victim” to safety from the new search and rescue prop (Cari Coll Photo).

Fire district builds new search and rescue prop

The new structure designed to mimic a residential three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment.

Vashon Island Fire & Rescue recently upgraded its search and rescue prop — a training space it uses for current firefighters and students in the fire academies it hosts twice a year.

In the place of two old shipping containers at the end of their useful life, there is a new structure designed to be flexible and mimic a residential three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, with a one-bedroom, one bathroom configuration also possible thanks to movable walls.

The 30-by-40-foot structure also includes an attic, closets and typical household furnishings and appliances, most abandoned or donated. Other real-life touches slated for the prop include smoke detectors that could be going off while people search, and radios and televisions that could be playing, contributing to the noise level. It is also possible to add sprinklers for firefighters to practice stopping water flow.

Recent academy students were the first to go through early last month. In full bunker gear and in black-out conditions with smoke from a smoke machine filling the rooms, they were tasked with searching for victims — an unknown number and in unknown locations, as in a true house fire. The prop also allows firefighters to practice breaching walls and extrication techniques after a collapse.

The department had allocated $85,000 for the project, Chief Charlie Krimmert said, calling it a work in progress and estimating that the district has spent about $50,000 on it so far. Krimmert, Assistant Chief Bob Larsen and Battalion Chief of Training & Safety Cari Coll designed the prop, and members of the department built it.

Krimmert said the structure is a welcome addition to the training grounds.

“We believe it is a tremendous step forward for more realistic training,” he said.

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