For the venting part of the exercise, members first stood in the room closest to the hole that was cut in the roof. They got to experience the power of the fan as the smoke blew past them and out of the house. /ANDREA ARNOLD

By Andrea Arnold

Members of the McBride and District Fire Department had the unique opportunity to experience what it is like to enter a structure filled with smoke during their Monday night practice. 

A home in McBride that is slated for demo later this month was carefully prepared prior to the exercise to allow for a safe learning opportunity. 

“The purpose of the exercise is to help members get more familiar with the use of SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) and how to ventilate a smoke-filled house,” said Fire Chief Dave Hruby. He said the smoke was created by a machine designed for this purpose. It uses non-toxic and environmentally friendly vegetable oil to create smoke.

Although the smoke was artificial and a light grey colour instead of black sooty smoke, upon exiting the house, members of the department said it was really hard to see more than a few inches in front of their faces, even with high powered flashlights. /ANDREA ARNOLD
Pairs of firefighters entered the smoke-filled home on hands and knees.The one trailing held onto the ankle of the one in front so they did not get separated. /ANDREA ARNOLD

Firefighters were sent into the building in groups of two. They had to stay low, crawling, with continuous contact between the pairs, as they searched the main floor of the building for a trapped person. Once the individual was located, Deputy Chief Courtney Lipke threw the members a curveball. He had sent in a firefighter with instructions to, on a code word sent through the radios, set off his alarm signalling distress. Deputy Chief Lipke called for radio silence until further notice as he sent in a new team to locate the fallen firefighter.

Eventually all members made their way through and out of the smoke-filled home. 

Once the search exercise was complete, Lipke instructed the members to make their way to the second floor. A section of roof and ceiling had been removed prior to the evening. Members of the department that were still outside, set up a large fan that forced air into the house and up through the hole in the roof.

Following that example, the crew repeated the exercise with all members outside the house, so they could see the difference the fan made in the movement of smoke out of the building.

“Exercises like this are very important because it allows for training in real life scenarios without the hazardous environment of flames and smoke,” said Lipke.