Clouds were billowing from Boise State University early this morning, but City of Boise fire officials were quick to reassure the public there was no danger. The first tendrils of smoke escaping from a lone window on the sixth floor of the university's Towers dormitories signaled the start of a planned training exercise.
Nearly 100 Boise firefighters working alongside Boise State personnel will be participating in the drill three times through the rest of the week.
“We don’t have dorm rooms, we don’t have elevators, and we don’t have resident advisers," said Romeo Gervais, Boise fire marshal, “so when our crews come in, they’ll actually do a normal response.”
Gervais stressed the importance of training in a variety of settings beyond the fire department's cement training structure or single-level structures. In a multi-story structure, getting water to the source of the flames can be difficult. For this exercise, crews will utilize the pipe running up the stairway to tie into the plumbing.
“We do a lot of drills but this actually had a victim in it," said Tom Pawek, battalion chief, “We had smoke on a floor, and we were able to simulate as close as possible so they got a real taste of what it would look like in a situation like this.”
Firefighters faced the challenge of an acrid and realistic smell, in addition to copious amounts of smoke. Furthermore, individuals referred to as role players were placed on the first floor of the building.
Becca Fellin is working an on-campus job this summer, living in the Towers residence hall. Playing the role of the sixth floor RA, Fellin was responsible for alerting firefighters that a single individual remained trapped. Located on the sixth floor was a dummy strategically placed in the smoky room to be rescued.
"The practice is definitely helpful no matter what situation you’re in," said Fellin. ”If it is a real emergency, obviously, it’s not going to be as calm and collected as this, but it is good practice.”
Gervais said building owners don’t always want Boise Fire to train in their structures, because there is the possibility of damage or leaking water from the filled hoses being hauled through the building.
“BSU is extending us a little, or a lot, I should say, professional courtesy to say, 'hey, we trust you; you guys know what you’re doing and you’re not going to damage our building,” said Gervais.