Firefighters drill ahead of Harris demolition


Bashing through walls and casing foggy halls, Amherst firefighters practiced search and rescue operations Aug. 15 at the soon-to-be-demolished Harris Elementary School.

During the drills, 17 of the department’s 36 firefighters used axes, worked on long-range hose-advancing techniques, chipped away at locked doors, and used Pak-Tracker locator devices to find an “injured” firefighter inside the school.

The Pak-Tracker is now part of every Amherst firefighter’s uniform and was first purchased by the department in April 2016.

A transmitter placed on uniforms acts as a beacon for a hand-held receiver carried by rescuers. As they zero in on a trapped or injured firefighter, the receiver emits a high-pitched sound that grows louder.

“Occasionally, when a building is ready to be razed, the city gives us permission to do this,” said assistant fire chief Brandon Dimacchia. “The police department will be here next week for a similar exercise and we’ll be back too along with possibly some other departments from the area. An exercise this big, though, is rare.”

Police will simulate an active shooter scenario at Harris.

Fire chief Jim Wilhelm said the biggest misconception about a smoke-filled room or building is the amount of visibility.

“You can’t see your hand in front of your face 90 percent of the time,” he said. “The built-up pressure is also never shown properly in movies or TV shows.”

If you ever find yourself in a smoke-filled building, “Just stay low. If you stand up and try to run out or even try to move on your knees in the middle of that kind of environment, it’s not good,” he said.

Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.

.neFileBlock {
margin-bottom: 20px;
}
.neFileBlock p {
margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px;
}
.neFileBlock .neFile {
border-bottom: 1px dotted #aaa;
padding-bottom: 5px;
padding-top: 10px;
}
.neFileBlock .neCaption {
font-size: 85%;
}

Firefighters break through a wall inside Harris Elementary School Aug. 15 during a training exercise.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/08/web1_IMG_9770-1.jpgFirefighters break through a wall inside Harris Elementary School Aug. 15 during a training exercise.

Wall breach, search and rescue, lock breaking, and long-range hose relay techniques were practiced.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/08/web1_IMG_9798-1.jpgWall breach, search and rescue, lock breaking, and long-range hose relay techniques were practiced.

Firefighters use a Pak-Tracking device to hone in on a “trapped” department member inside Harris.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/08/web1_IMG_9766-1.jpgFirefighters use a Pak-Tracking device to hone in on a “trapped” department member inside Harris.

Firefighter Brad Rider passes a hose farther into the building.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/08/web1_IMG_9786-1.jpgFirefighter Brad Rider passes a hose farther into the building.

Firefighter Brian DePalma makes his way into Harris.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/08/web1_IMG_9782-1.jpgFirefighter Brian DePalma makes his way into Harris.

This hand-held receiver, part of the Pak-Tracking system, emits a high-pitch sound that grows louder as firefighters zero in on an injured or trapped comrade.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/08/web1_IMG_9781-1.jpgThis hand-held receiver, part of the Pak-Tracking system, emits a high-pitch sound that grows louder as firefighters zero in on an injured or trapped comrade.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Amherst News-Times

Proper technique is shown for breaking through a locked door.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/08/web1_IMG_9758-1.jpgProper technique is shown for breaking through a locked door.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Amherst News-Times

Chief Jim Wilhelm takes a thermal image of Harris.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/08/web1_IMG_9807-1.jpgChief Jim Wilhelm takes a thermal image of Harris.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Amherst News-Times

This beacon, indicated by the red dot, is now carried by all Amherst firefighters as part of the Pak-Tracker system.
http://www.theamherstnewstimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/43/2017/08/web1_IMG_9808-1.jpgThis beacon, indicated by the red dot, is now carried by all Amherst firefighters as part of the Pak-Tracker system.

Photos by Jonathan Delozier | Amherst News-Times

By Jonathan Delozier

jdelozier@aimmediamidwest.com