Many of the Watertown Fire Department’s training exercises are done in the fire station, but a home set to be demolished by a developer provided a rare and valuable venue for training.
Over the past couple weeks, Watertown firefighters got a chance to get out their axes, saws and ladders and hack into a home on Harrington Avenue that will soon be demolished by a developer.
“It gives us the opportunity to do things we have not done since the (fire) academy,” said Lt. David Meagher, the department’s training officer.
Since the house will be torn down, the firefighters didn’t have to worry about taking it easy on the walls and roof.
“We cut holes in the roof. The only other time we cut a hole in the room is during a fire,” Meagher said. “And we were breaking down walls.”
They also created some training scenarios in the basement of the house, such as a firefighter down and a “May Day” in a pitch black room.
“We blacked out the windows in the basement and put a dummy in the basement,” Meagher said. “Normally we do training in the basement of the fire station but you can only change the basement around so much.”
All members of the Fire Department got a chance to go over to the house. Among the trainees were a group of new hires.
“It was a great opportunity for them to jump into training,” Meagher said.
The Fire Department found out about the house while they were responding to a gas leak outside the home, said Deputy Fire Chief Tom McManus.
“I went to the Building Department and contacted the owner – the developer – to ask if we can use it for training,” McManus said.
Setting up the training is not a simple as it may sound, McManus said. The timing must be right because the developer must get approval from the Historical Society to get the approval to demolish it, and then there must be time for the Fire Department to do the training without holding up the construction schedule.
The department has had other recent opportunities including at the Arsenal on the Charles complex.
“Athenahealth has been great,” McManus said. “They have been doing a lot of demolition during spring in leading up to the renovation of Building 311.”