Saturday, May 2, 2009

Kinnelon Fire Department Practices on Smoke Rise House

This is 6 Hemlock Lane in Smoke Rise, also known as 'the old Kindig house.' This was also the site of a Kinnelon Fire Department practice last Monday, April 27, 2009. The house was scheduled to be torn down the following day [we just checked out the scene and it has indeed been demolished].

We found out about the practice -- and a Fire Department search and rescue drill [which took place on 4/20/09] -- from George Cox, the Smoke Rise Governor of Communications. My reaction? How fascinating! How do I learn more?

George suggested that I contact the Kinnelon Fire Chief, Gail Bresett.

I did and learned quite a bit.

Chief Bresett explained that the Kinnelon Fire Department routinely reaches out to builders and purchasers who intend to tear a house - or part of a house - down. The purpose? To use the structure in a drill situation to simulate structure fire.

You see, during a fire department intervention, damage occurs. We're talking broken windows, holes in the roof to help vent, even damage to walls. And the best way to be prepared for the worst situation is by practicing in and on a structure where the damage doesn't matter and on one the closely resembles a real life situation. [A big deal is being able to practice 'laddering' a house.]

Opportunities such as this don't happen frequently - and fire school isn't quite the same. According to Chief Bresett, the Fire Department had the opportunity to practice two years ago on a Gravel Hill Road house, and also on a 1920s house on Ricker Road. Sometimes, too, a partial house opportunity [i.e., only a part of a house is scheduled for demolition] might present itself.

Monday night is the normal drill night for the Kinnelon Fire Department. In this kind of a practice, they will proceed in real time and then debrief afterwards. She expected at least 20 firefighters from the department to participate. All active members are encouraged to participate without restriction. The Kinnelon Fire Department totals approximately 45 firefighters, including junior and senior members.

The department was also able to hold the previous week a small group practice rescue with a "rapid intervention team" for rescuing firefighters. At the same time, it prepared scenarios for Monday's session.

Chief Gail Bresett has held the position of Kinnelon Fire Chief since January 2008, for a 2 year term. Most recently, she was first assistant, then second assistant. She has been active in the Kinnelon Fire Department 29 years.

Lisa, Miles, Glenn Sisco, Denise Bresett and Emma.
Lisa and I met up this past Monday night to witness the fire department practice -- from a distance.

As we approached the scene, we encountered Mayor Glenn Sisco in full firefighting gear and standing by to support and coordinate any unexpected needs for the evening's program.

He graciously spoke with us, answering questions and explaining what was taking place. The evening's activities were considered a corporation drill involving all three Kinnelon Fire Companies. I counted a least six trucks, including a tanker truck and a light truck to illuminate the scene as it got darker.

Mayor Sisco also introduced us to his granddaughter, Denise Bresett, a junior firefighter. She was taking photos which will be available on the KVFC website photo gallery [see the photos of the 4/26/09 forest fire].

Unfortunately, we couldn't see all that much. Not only was it getting dark, but as observers we really couldn't get in so close that we might interfere. As you can see from the photo above, the street was filled with fire trucks, and hoses. Lots of activity was taking place up at the house with firefighters in and about. Denise confirmed that windows had been broken.

Later that evening [i.e., 10pm +] I heard firetrucks go by, returning to Company 3. I assume the practice lasted until then.

Interestingly, Lisa had mentioned the 6 Hemlock Lane house to me back in January. She had spoken with the realtor who explained that the house had been abandoned for 6 years; all of the systems within had failed; and that the house was best suited for demolition and reconstruction.

Kind of neat, though, to realize that - despite not having been of much use these past 6 years - the house had one last service to offer the community: a chance for the Kinnelon Fire Department to practice and be better prepared in case of a Kinnelon fire emergency.

By the way, please do check out the Kinnelon Volunteer Fire Department Blog. Also, the Kinnelon Fire Department website encourages you to visit the borough's new Kinnelon Boro Street Index guide and to take the Morris Country Preparedness Survey.

Did you see my previous post on Kinnelon's Semi-Annual Pancake Breakfast? Consider volunteering for our fire department.

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