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All fired up

Practice burns help train new firefighters

October 09, 2013 - Ortonville- A vacant building in the village is taking some serious damage in the name of progress.

A portion of the former Sherman Lifelong Learning Center, located at 330 Sherman Court, was burned the morning of Oct. 5 during a training exercise for new Brandon firefighters. Two consecutive fires were set by lighting straw and wood pallets and the blazes were contained to one room only of the large cement block structure.The point of the exercise was to allow two crews of six firefighters each to observe the different thermal layers of a fire.

"They had a chance to experience the fire's heat, smoke and gases and how to extinguish it," said Brandon Fire Chief Dave Kwapis. "On each crew were two firefighters for the interior attack, two for backup and two for the safety line so the fire doesn't get out of hand."

The fire was measured at 1,200 degrees at its hottest point in the room.

The training burn was not the only exercise firefighters performed at the building this week. On Monday and again on Wednesday, crews practiced confined space rescue in which they placed a dummy in a vault below ground, which formerly served as a water storage tank for the building. Firefighters went inside, attaching a harness to the dummy and raising it out of the vault. Kwapis notes that this training could be used if ever someone was to fall into underground vaults at Brandon High School that are large and used for drainage.

Crews will partially collapse part of the building this weekend as they train for rescues that could be performed in the event of a tornado. The building, which is owned by the school district and has sat empty for the past few years after Oakwood Elementary was built and alternative high school and preschool students were moved to the HT Burt building, will soon be demolished. The district had attempted to sell the building previously, but deemed earlier this year that it is unsafe for children due to its deteriorating condition.

"This gives us an invaluable experience because we have a building we are able to do multiple things with," said Kwapis. "We thank Brandon Schools for providing this opportunity."

Kwapis is looking to add to the Brandon Fire Department staff. On-call firefighters and emergency medical technicians/paramedics are needed who reside in the township, are at least 18-years-old, and have a diploma or GED, a clean driving record and no criminal record. Fire 1 and 2 classes begin in January and meet two days a week, for three to four hours, and some Saturdays. Classes continue through July. EMT classes start in August and run to the middle of December.

"Working in this community, you may be saving your neighbor's life," said Kwapis.

Contact Kwapis by the end of November in order to sign up for January classes. Details: 248-627-4000.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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