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Rescuing the rescuer

The smoke was imaginary, so were the flames. The radio chatter and victims were all playing their parts.

The only part of Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue’s training this week at the former Good Guys store on Ridgetop Boulevard that wasn’t simulated was the ever-present danger that firefighters face whenever they have a potential situation in a large commercial building.

While the store is empty save for some remnants on the walls marking its closing sale, CKFR trainers put up wooden barracades to simulate counters to keep anyone from going in a straight line.

“This is more of a mental exercise than a physical one,” said Joe Repar, the battallion chief who has been leading the exercises for CKFR’s professional and volunteer firefighters. “This is an exercise in how the guys respond to a situation of being lost.”

For Thursday afternoon’s simulation, firefighter Jason Reed and Lt. Bill Green were taken into a back room where they were told to wait for their rescuers. Their role as first responders was to investigate the fire and the alarm panel, only to be trapped inside.

After not hearing from their shift mates at Station 56, paramedic Justin Brown and firefighter Greg Snyder prepared to enter the building to find them, pulling out hoses and other equipment. Firefighter John Tollefson and Lt. Dave Olsen arrived as support from Station 45, with Olsen joining the Station 56 crew as they readied to search the interior. With extra air tanks and breathing apparatus, the trio searched the darkened interior as Repar gave commands to imaginary crews on the outside and Tollefson manned Engine 56 and set up a fan. Using only flashlights to find their way they eventually were able to retrieve their lost comrades.

“It’s a rare time that we have a building like this to use,” Repar said inbetween broadcasts. While commercial fires are rarer than residential fires, the exercise proved to be a good lesson in radio usage and tactics. CKFR plans to have further training exercises at the store, according to Repar.

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