When the Ashland Fire Department needs a place with multiple stories, large open areas and remodeled sections to make its firefighter training more realistic, the old Sears building in downtown Ashland meets those requirements.
“(Owner) Perry Madden is gracious in allowing us to use this,” said Battalion Chief Bob McKeon, who said the former retail business space is a good representation of the type of architecture they might encounter inside an Ashland structure.
McKeon said the firefighters and officers worked Tuesday on teams to train for tasks including the use of a “pack tracker” device which would allow them to find a fallen or missing firefighter, as well as hands-on techniques for finding a disoriented or lost crew member.
As members of Rescue 4 Engine Company used their hands and feet to judge their positions, McKeon explained the exercise is designed to teach a team to follow its own lines, feeling the difference between the couplings to confirm they are traveling into or out of the structure.
As partially blindfolded firefighters Lad Barker and Steve Kincer followed behind firefighter Richard Carr and Capt. Chad Stevens, others offered advice or criticisms, particularly when Barker and Kincer became separated by a few feet while making their way around a structural column.
Noting a heavy bag being dragged forward along the rescue path by Carr and Stevens, McKeon explained one of the challenging aspects of the training was delivery of a “RIT” (Rapid Intervention Team) bag, which contained rescue gear including an air tank.