- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

PLAINFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Smoke billowed Tuesday out of a building behind the Plainfield Fire Protection District headquarters as firefighting crews geared up to enter and look for survivors.

Lt. Andy Scott worked with another firefighter to bust open a jammed door to the building and conduct a search for people on the first floor before heading to the second.

Firefighters found a victim on the second floor and radioed the information back to command. But they received a second order that the stairs had collapsed. So Scott and other firefighters set up a ladder rescue from a second-floor balcony.

The victim was really a beanbag dummy, the smoke was fake and the Plainfield firefighters were conducting one of the first training exercises in the fire district’s two new fire training buildings.

The buildings were constructed during the summer, and fire officials are optimistic about their capabilities.

“This is a solid foundation for the beginning of many things,” Chief Dave Riddle said.

The two fire training buildings look like a pair of black, generic structures. But inside, they have been designed to mimic real-life conditions.

The south building is a burn structure. Included are an attached garage, basement escape wells and other characteristics of single-family homes, senior living communities and commercial buildings unique to Plainfield.

The north building is for HAZMAT and tactical rescue scenarios. That includes a drop-down rescue chamber with windows for instructional purposes, tunnel access points similar to industrial buildings and high-rise rescue training capabilities.

The original plan was to have one building to prevent soot contamination to rescue equipment, Deputy Chief Jon Stratton said.

Lt. John Votteler, a primary designer of the buildings, said the buildings have the versatility to adapt to any type of training with adjustable wall paneling.

“It’s like a kit: You get a bunch of Legos and you kind of throw them together and see what you get, fit your needs in it,” Votteler said.

The cost for the buildings and necessary infrastructure was budgeted for a total of $1.17 million, with the buildings’ cost specifically targeted at $750,000. Riddle said the buildings ended up costing about $500,000.

“We’re very cognizant of our fiscal responsibilities,” Riddle said.

Firefighters involved with the exercise Tuesday noticed the advantages of training in a building designed for that purpose.

Training previously was done with burns in buildings that were condemned for demolition.

Stratton said previous training fires also required sometimes difficult approval from environmental regulators.

“We don’t have the ability to go and burn homes down every day,” Scott said. “So for something like this we can come in and do repeated evolutions of different scenarios in order to practice our skills and make them better.”

Several other agencies and programs are already interested in conducting exercises at the buildings, Riddle said.

The buildings may even become the foundation for a fire academy in the future, although Riddle said it is still a work in progress.

“We plan to perhaps add trench rescue,” Riddle said. “We also have a relationship with Joliet Junior College for hosting (fire science) courses here.”

Such agreements are quid pro quo, with JJC potentially granting tuition waivers for fire science classes to Plainfield firefighters, Riddle said.

Riddle said the plan is to also have the fire district headquarters become a regional site for the Illinois Fire Service Institute, National Fire Academy and for law enforcement classes.

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Source: The (Joliet) Herald-News, https://bit.ly/1O0nRI5

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Information from: The Herald-News, https://www.theherald-news.com/

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