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Practice makes perfect
Firefighters sharpen skills in controlled burn
FIRE MFD16-6-27-11
Manteca firefighter Doug Escalante, center, and engineer Derek George, right, keep an eye on the fire. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The deliberate burning of a former muffler shop allowed Manteca firefighters to sharpen their firefighting skills.

Full-time firefighters and reserves spent most of Sunday igniting fires at the structure and putting them out before letting the building collapse.

Manteca Fire Chief Kirk Waters said being able to use a building such as the one at Wetmore Street and South Main Street for a practice burn was a rare and invaluable opportunity.

"It's the only way you get to practice with a real fire," Waters said.

Oftentimes, it is the first actual firefighting experience with a structure fire that reserve firefighters will receive. At the same time it helps enhance coordination between firefighters already trained in basics. That includes everything from the protocol for attacking fires, checking for possible persons trapped inside, and even determining how to pace their self in full turnout gear and breathing apparatus.

Waters noted that the sharper firefighters can get at tasks the quicker they are able to bring a structure fire they respond to under control.

By Monday, crews with a contractor hired by the city to build the new municipal vehicle maintenance facility going up on the site had already started clearing the rubble.

Waters noted the burn was used for other purposes as well. The Manteca Police Department did their quarterly bomb training in the building. And after devices were set off, the city's fire investigator went in looking for clues to determine exactly the type of device that was used and where the fire originated.

The Community Emergency Response Team composed of citizen volunteers used the exercise to gain training in traffic control as well.

Waters added that the effort also involved the building department.