PORT ANGELES — More than 30 firefighters from across Clallam County watched as blazes ripped through two buildings that they had set on fire in Port Angeles on Sunday as part of a training burn.
“Our job is normally to … get in there as fast as we can and put it out,” said Jake Patterson, deputy chief of Clallam County Fire District No. 2. “This, we want to keep it burning a little bit so that we can get training value out of it.”
Firefighters from the Port Angeles Fire Department and Clallam County Fire Districts No. 2 and 4 participated in the training at 1520 W. Lauridsen Boulevard and 1430 W. Lauridsen Boulevard. They used controlled burns to demolish two houses which were scheduled for demolition and donated to the firefighters.
“We don’t get this opportunity very often,” Patterson said.
It’s a chance for firefighters to deal with the heat and smoke while practicing fire suppression.
Patterson said it’s an opportunity for firefighters to demonstrate and practice their skills as they focus on applying modern fire-suppression tactics covered during regular training.
Teams of firefighters entered one of the burning houses until each had a chance to go through. As firefighters practiced their skills, small crowds gathered at Lincoln Park to watch the blazes.
When firefighters were waiting for their turn to practice, many snapped photos or took video of the blazes.
Firefighters are required under state law to have a live fire training at least once every three years. Clallam County Fire District No. 2 hosted Sunday’s training and extended invitations to its mutual aid partners: Port Angeles Fire Department and Clallam County Fire District No. 4.
It wasn’t just career and volunteer firefighters who benefited from the training. Several Fire Explorer Scouts felt the heat as they practiced putting water on one of the flaming homes.
“They got to experience how smokey and hot a fire can get,” Patterson said.
The program is for youths age 14 through 18, promotes leadership, and provides training toward future careers in firefighting and emergency medical services.
Firefighters coached the Explorer Scouts as they fought one of the fires from the outside. They did not enter either of the burning buildings.
Brandon Harvey, 16, of Port Angeles said he could really feel the heat as he manned the hose. He had practiced using a fire hose before, but it was the first time he had a real fire to fight.
“It feels hot,” he said. “It’s more engaging than just shooting at the trees.”
Harvey has been in the Explorer Scout program for two years and said when he turns 18 he plans to become a volunteer firefighter.
Through the program he has gained a greater respect for the work firefighters do, he said.
“It’s given me a lot of respect for firefighters and that’s what I want to do,” Harvey said, calling the job a great fit for him.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].