The Biloxi Fire Department got the chance of a lifetime Wednesday. They were able to practice emergency drills in actual vacant houses. This helps the firefighters freshen up on basic skills and prepares them for the unexpected. Firefighters have to be ready for almost anything, at any time. That is why it is important for them to get all the practice they can get. The Coliseum allowed the Biloxi Fire Department to use vacant houses Wednesday for an emergency drill.
Stephen Strickler, the Battalion Chief of the Biloxi Fire Department, says, "The basic operation, the firefighting, entering the seed of the fire, doing our primary searches, and ventilation through the roof." To recreate the most realistic experience, the chief uses a theatrical smoke machine to fill the houses before the firefighters enter. Next, the firefighters must retrieve two victims. Casey Whitehead, a firefighters, says, "It simulated a real fire real well. Little to no visibility once you got in there."
Doug Korbe, another firefighter, says, "The biggest tactical is to try and get around all the debris and the mess in the house, to climb over it.” Then, the firefighters had to ventilate the house. They sawed a hole in the roof and broke through the ceiling to relieve the rescue teams of heat and smoke.
John Jennings, the Deputy Chief of Training for the Biloxi Fire Department, says, "Say there is a mattress on fire, got that real nasty smoke or something, so you try and coordinate the ventilation up above it so all the dangerous gases and heat and smoke, and that’s what really kills people, the smoke, not so much the fire." According to the firefighters, the most important part of the day was learning about each other. Korbe closes, "This is the first time we've really worked together, because we got put together at a new station, so this is good training for us to get to know each other and how we work.”
The Biloxi firefighters are committed to being the best they can be, even if that means practicing in full gear in 80 degree weather. Firefighters will continue practicing through next week. After that, the vacant houses will be torn down to make room for a new parking lot to service the Coliseum.