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Fire crews train in mock dorm fire

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A firefighter knocks on the door of a dorm room in Garrett Residence Hall at ECU as they respond to a training event put on by Greenville Fire/Rescue on July 11, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Tyler Stocks
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The second floor of Garrett Residence Hall at East Carolina University slowly began filling with smoke and alarm bells sounded as it seeped into each dorm room and traveled down the hallway.

A simple haze quickly evolved into a blinding, disorienting, heavy fog with no visibility.

Fire crews rushed to the scene dressed in full turnout gear, axes and high-rise packs in tow.

Fortunately, it was just a drill.

In less than 16 minutes, a dozen firefighters from Greenville Fire-Rescue and Staton House Fire Department ran hoses up two flights of stairs, cleared every room in the building, extinguished the fire and began the ventilation process.

Greenville Fire-Rescue Captain Mervin Taylor said the crew made a good effort. In a real emergency, more than 30 firefighters would be dispatched to the scene, he said.

Taylor said training like this greatly benefits local residents who rely on fire-rescue professionals to work quickly and efficiently in their time of need. 

“Training is a continuous improvement process,” he said. “We continuously do this on a daily basis so we can be prepared for tomorrow.”

Such training is made possible through a partnership with East Carolina University.

“Every summer, we come over and train in the dorms,” Taylor said. “ECU is very kind to let us train in different types of commercial buildings.”

With multi-million dollar high rises emerging in Greenville, the city is becoming a small metropolis, he said.

“There’s no better opportunity than for us to come over to a vacant dorm that is built to take the beating that firefighters can put on it, simulating an apartment fire or a rescue in that type of building,” Taylor said.

In a rescue situation, Taylor said firefighters would remove victims using the stairwells or encourage them to shelter in place.

During the Wednesday night training, firefighters were given very little information, and had to ascertain where the smoke was coming from while encountering locked doors and stairwells that were inaccessible.

“We should be prepared for all of it,” Taylor said. “When the guys entered, they eventually found out there was a fire on the second floor in room 250. In this case, it was a resident advisor that alerted us to a fire somewhere on the second floor.”

Firefighters worked in tandem to accomplish the large-scale task.

“We had a division of labor and a division of command,” Taylor said;. “The large task was broken into small jobs to accomplish the fire attack.”

The training was taxing on firefighters, who wore more than 70 pounds worth of gear in sweltering heat.

“It’s 100 degrees today and that challenge is always going to be present. Unfortunately, we have to battle this in the real world,” Taylor said.

He added that a heat management plan is always in place.

“We have a heat management plan in place to limit the impacts of humid weather,” Taylor said. “So, we’ll do a high intensity training for a short duration to try and limit our exposure.

“In this event, we train for 22 minutes and they’re done,” he said. “They won’t go back in unless it’s a real-world situation.”.

While the smoke in the dorm was just a drill this time, Taylor said that students need to always be prepared to evacuate when fire alarms sound.

“Treat every single alarm like it’s the real thing,” he said.

Contact Tyler Stocks at tstocks@reflector.com or 252-329-9566.  Follow him on Twitter @TylerstocksGDR

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