Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Boise Firefighters Train at the Soon-to-be-Demolished Rodeway Inn

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 5:32 PM

  • Jessica Murri
The Rodeway Inn was an eerie place to be the afternoon of March 24. The motel next to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center sat empty, with the rooms striped bare of furniture, ceiling panels removed and exposing the building's framework, and wood paneling torn from the walls. No lights were on—just the filtering of sunlight through the motel's unoccupied rooms lit the hallway.

To add to the creepiness, fog from a smoke simulator floated through the hallway, and the floral-print carpet squished with each step, saturated by hundreds of gallons worth of water.

The Rodeway Inn was purchased by St. Al's in December 2014, and will soon be demolished for redevelopment. Before then, however, the hospital donated the graying motel to the Boise Fire Department to conduct trainings for two weeks. Over the next several days, Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan hopes to run all of the city's 300 fire fighters through training in the decrepit building. He also invited the Meridian and Eagle fire departments to train as well.

Ideally, Doan would have liked to see the Rodeway Inn burned to simulate a hotel or apartment fire. But because of its proximity to the hospital and Interstate 184, burning wasn't a safe option. Instead, the fire department used a non-toxic smoke simulator to fill the halls.

"The crews don't know what they're going to come upon," Doan explained. "Dispatch has told them there's smoke showing. They have to figure out where the smoke is coming from, and how to attack the fire."

  • Jessica Murri

Right then, three engines, a ladder truck and a battalion chief pulled into the parking lot—14 firefighters altogether.

Three firefighters set up ladders nearby a smoking room on the second story of the motel. Several others made their way inside, working to manipulate a fire hose through the hallways and up the stairs. The hose pumped 250 gallons per minute into the smoke-filled room.

Minutes later, they emerged with two dummies found inside the building, and laid them beside firefighters standing nearby. Those crew members pulled medical supplies from an EMS bag and went to work treating the dummies. 

Fifteen minutes later, the training mission was over.
  • Jessica Murri
Battalion Chief Steve Rasulo said the white smoke filling the halls of the Rodeway Inn isn't quite like what happens in a house fire. That smoke is usually thicker and black. Homes usually hold smoke more than the hotel did, too, making visibility even lower.

"Most people who die in a house fire die from the smoke and toxic gases," Rasulo said. "Few are killed by direct fire."

Rasulo said synthetic carpets and an increase in plastics over the last few decades have made house fires worse. 

"A desktop computer contains enough plastic to make it equivalent to ten gallons of gasoline," he said, adding that fire doubles in size every 30 seconds by a rule of thumb. 

That makes these training sessions crucial, according to Doan. He said he always appreciates when he has the opportunity to train his staff on actual buildings like Rodeway Inn. Last summer, the Boise Fire Department practiced on Boise State University's alumni building, setting fire to it on Aug. 18, 2014. Doan said they receive houses to burn every few months, usually when the owners want to redevelop the land.

If Doan had the opportunity to burn this motel, he said the burning would have gone on for weeks. The fire department will often rebuild sheetrock walls to simulate the fire again and again. Before burning, structures have to be checked for asbestos and other safety hazards.

Despite the fireless nature of Tuesday's training, Doan still called it a "great opportunity" to help Boise firefighters train in a challenging environment.

  • Jessica Murri

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Police Blotter: Felony DUIs and Punching a Paramedic

Posted By on Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 11:45 AM

Boise Police took a male suspect into custody after he allegedly punched a paramedic responding to an EMS call.

Law enforcement were summoned to the intersection of 16th and Front streets in the afternoon hours of Jan. 19. That's where a male subject reportedly approached a Boise Fire Station and appeared to be intoxicated. When firefighters tried to help the suspect, he became aggressive and was unable to communicate. Eventually, paramedics were able to take the man to a nearby hospital, but while in an ambulance the suspect reportedly punched a paramedic. After a medical evaluation, the suspect was taken to the Ada County Jail.

26-year-old Nathaniel Hammersmith, with no permanent address, was charged with a felony count of battery upon a health care worker.

Boise Police say they were also dispatched to a call of a vehicle that had crashed through a fence near the intersection of Bridlewood Circle and Glenwood Street on Jan. 17. Police said the driver failed a field sobriety test and blew blood alcohol levels of .321 and .323, more than four times the legal limit.

50-year-old Frank Wood of Boise was charged with a felony count of excessive DUI.

Boise Police charged another Boise man with his third DUI offense during a traffic stop on Jan. 17 near the intersection of Emerald Street and Maple Grove Road. Witnesses told police that the driver of the vehicle swerved in traffic and failed to maintain his traffic lane. The driver failed a sobriety test and was taken to the Ada County lockup.

38-year-old Moises Quezada of Boise was charged with felony DUI.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Video: Boise Fire Department Shows Off Ice Rescue Techniques

Posted By on Thu, Jan 8, 2015 at 3:13 PM

The Boise Fire Department dive team demonstrates an ice rescue on the afternoon of Jan. 8. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • The Boise Fire Department dive team demonstrates an ice rescue on the afternoon of Jan. 8.

After two separate incidents in a matter of days in which citizens fell through the ice attempting to rescue their dogs, the Boise Fire Department dive team held an ice rescue demonstration the afternoon of Jan. 8. The demonstration took place at Parkcenter Pond with a group of dive team members clad in the Mustang Survival suit.

The suit, which costs $750, looks like a cross between a dry suit and hazmat protection. It's completely waterproof with a watertight hood, attached gloves and boots, and reflective tape. When it hits the water, the air inside the suit is buoyant enough to keep the dive team floating without a life jacket. The inner lining keeps the person warm.

Dive team member Greg Briggs (right) demonstrates how to rescue someone from freezing cold waters after falling through the ice. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • Dive team member Greg Briggs (right) demonstrates how to rescue someone from freezing cold waters after falling through the ice.
The rescue procedure goes something like this: Dive team members pull on the suits on the way to the scene of the incident. Once there, one of the men hustles across the ice to where the victim has fallen in. He then jumps into the water and swims up behind the victim with a rope. He brings the rope around the victim and clips it with a giant carabiner that can be opened easily in the cold or with oversized gloves on. From there, he helps launch the victim out of the water and onto the unbroken ice while the team members on the bank pull the other side of the rope.

"We'll get there in five minutes, and have a person out of the water in 10," said Greg Briggs, a driver and dive team member on the Boise Fire Department.

Briggs said it can be a moment of panic when a person falls into the ice and tries to get out. The ice that held them before can't support their weight anymore as their clothes become wet and more of it breaks around them. He said the first thing to do in that situation is yell for help. 

Chief Paul Roberts said people are more likely to break ice and fall in when the weather warms.

"After a freezing period, the dogs run out on the ice and chase the 
  • Jessica Murri
geese," Roberts told Boise Weekly, "But then the weather warms up and the ice still looks the same, so the dog still goes out, but then it falls through the ice. Well, if the ice won't hold a dog, it won't hold a person, so when a person goes out to rescue the dog and falls through, it turns catastrophic fast."

Roberts said if someone falls and gets trapped under the ice, the incident can go undetected, which is even more dangerous.

The department warned that people should call 911 if their dogs break through the ice, rather than attempting a rescue themselves. In both of the recent incidents—one near Quinn's Pond, the other at Lake Harbor—the dogs managed to escape the freezing cold water, while the owners needed to be rescued.

After Briggs crawled out of the water this afternoon, he said he wasn't cold at all in his Mustang Survival suit.

"I'm wearing a sleeping bag right now," he said, laughing.

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Monday, November 3, 2014

UPDATE: Main Street Auction Storage Warehouse Set Ablaze This Morning

Posted By on Mon, Nov 3, 2014 at 2:35 PM

  • Jessica Murri

UPDATE: 2 p.m. Nov. 3, 2014

Anthony Bell, 25, is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. - COURTESY ADA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT
  • Courtesy Ada County Sheriff's Department
  • Anthony Bell, 25, is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

A Boise man was arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia shortly after he called 911 Monday morning, alerting authorities to a big warehouse fire that filled the skies with smoke near Main Street and Whitewater Boulevard.

Investigators said earlier that they were questioning someone about how the fire started. It turns out that the man was inside the warehouse just before the blaze erupted. He got out of the building safely and called 911.

Anthony Bell, 25, was booked into the Ada County lockup Monday afternoon on a misdemeanor charge of possessing drug paraphernalia. 

Boise Police detectives, working with fire investigators, determined that the fire at the warehouse was an accident and no criminal charges would result in the fire.

The cause of the fire was listed as candles that Bell had been using inside the building because there was no power. Bell had told law enforcement that he was homeless and had fallen asleep inside the building and awoke surrounded by flames.

ORIGINAL POST: 9:40 a.m.  Nov. 3, 2014

Around 8:40 Monday morning, the storage warehouse on the corner of Boise's Main Street and Whitewater Boulevard across the street from the Main Street Auction caught fire.

Main Street Auction owner David Wesley Jr. said the fire was apparently started by candles. The blaze engulfed the building, which housed furniture, motorcycles and other objects inside that have not yet been sold at the Main Auction.

  • Jessica Murri
The man    got out of the warehouse safely, but was quite shaken from the incident.

Seven fire trucks poured water over the blaze this morning, working to contain it. Dozens of EMS including Ada County Paramedics and the Boise Police Department stayed on scene. 

"Dude, this isn't even funny," Wesley said. "This is my third fire in five years. I don't get it."

A few years ago, the warehouse directly beside the Main Auction—now Eberlestock—caught on fire, slightly damaging the Main Auction's exterior.
  • Jessica Murri

"Never could find the cause of the fire, but we were very blessed to even be here still because the fire was so substantial that it took down that whole warehouse and it was a total loss," Wesley told Boise Weekly back in April. "When that happened, the firefighters broke into the auction and stood ground, waiting for something to happen and it never did. We never caught on fire. The scariest part of the whole thing was, it was a Saturday morning and we were ready for the auction. It was about 4:30 in the morning. From the way that it looked, there was no auction. But it ended up that only the fiberglass up there was scorched real bad. That was the extent of the damage. The inventory was virtually untouched."

Wesley was not as fortunate with this fire—though the Main Auction itself is safe from the flames. While looking on as firefighters attempted to save his storage warehouse, Wesley's cellphone rang.

'What's up?" he said into the phone. "Just watching the flames, dude."
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Red Team vs. Blue Team

Posted By on Tue, Aug 25, 2009 at 11:48 AM

Ada County EMS Director Troy Hagen addresses the open forum.
  • Mathias Morache
  • Ada County EMS Director Troy Hagen addresses the open forum.
A crowd of some 60 concerned citizens and blog readers gathered yesterday at the Boise Public Library, to discuss the future of EMS in Ada County. The confab was hosted by Boise Guardian blogger David Frazier, a vocal critic of Boise Fire Department’s efforts to start a new ambulance service.

After months of fierce debate online at boiseweekly.com and at The Guardian, the debate left the Internet and entered The Real World. Sort of. While an assortment of white uniformed Ada County Paramedics were present to answer questions, Boise Fire Department refused to attend, leaving a lopsided panel.

“I think the fact that Boise Fire Department isn’t here speaks volumes. They think they can do EMS better, faster and cheaper? What’s their plan? Let’s hear it,” said one irate attendee. Multiple speakers expressed frustration that BFD was not present to answer questions directly.

Fire had announced earlier Monday they would not participate.

“The host for this event has already taken a stand on the issue and therefore cannot serve as an impartial moderator in this debate,” explained Greg Womack, president of firefighters Local No. 149, in a press release. “Boise Fire is committed to ensuring the highest quality emergency medical services to all Boise residents and looks forward to working with all involved parties to achieve that goal.”

Along with camera crews from two local news stations, Ada County recorded the meeting for permanent record, which one man said he hoped BFD would watch.

Frazier noted that the State EMS licensing Bureau also refused to attend, citing political reasons. At the forefront of the discussion was BFD's plan to purchase an ambulance, pending approval by the bureau.
If successful, the BFD ambulance would replace an existing ACEMS ambulance housed at a fire station. This plan was met with widespread criticism by those in attendance.

"What is the purpose of replacing one ambulance with another ambulance?" asked one man.

"Any wholesale changes should be determined by the people," said Frazier. "When we put the EMS system together in '75, we were looking for cooperation, not a standoff. This has become red team versus white team. It makes no sense."

Ada County EMS Director Troy Hagen explained that the existing laws governing EMS only contribute to the confusion.

"The laws were written in the 60's and 70's and are not well suited for the current climate," said Hagen. "This is our passion. This is our livelihood. We operate at a high level of performance and want to continue to do so for years to come," said Hagen, prompting applause.

County Commissioner Sharon Ullman was the lone political officeholder present at the meeting. "In January, the fire chief said he can do EMS better, faster, and cheaper. We have yet to see how," said Ullman.

Ullman said that she is working on establishing one set of working orders for both ACP and BFD so that they operate on a single "play book" for procedure, possibly incorporating joint training.

"The only thing we haven't done is agree to have them bring on an ambulance," said Ullman. Ullman and Frazier both expressed the feeling that there is a lack of knowledge on the part of City Council about the situation. Frazier noted that city council president Maryanne Jordan said she will address the issue at a September work session.

No ER doctors from St. Luke's or St. Alphonsus’ attended the meeting, although Frazier cited a letter from such physicians claiming that they saw no reason for duplication of services, and are advocates of establishing a unified protocol of medical response.

One man, identifying himself as an emergency physician for Mercy Medical Center in Nampa spoke on behalf of the medical community, although he noted that he does not speak for either of the care providers affiliated with ACP.

"As a whole, the system works best with firefighters as first responders," said the physician, claiming the duties of first responders and paramedics should not be mixed. "Care and transporting patients is complicated and best handled by paramedics. The system in Boise works well and is what most other cities use," said the physician.

To close the meeting, Frazier called for a citizen commission of oversight, noting that he has been a vocal advocate of a similar commission for police oversight and feels that both fire and police could be combined in a single commission.

"I've been a strong proponent for a police commission so citizens have a voice in essential services. The same goes for fire. We wouldn't have these problems today if we had a board," said Frazier.

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