HANOVER, Mass. — More than a 120 firefighters from nearly a dozen South Shore departments spent two days taking part in a training event like no other.
The large-scale training drill was held on Friday and Saturday at The Hanover Mall, which will soon be torn down to make way for an open-air retail space and high-end residential units.
The focus of the training was to enhance firefighter safety.
The firefighters practiced getting in and out of low spots and tight spaces while wearing their gear and air packs. They also reviewed techniques for freeing themselves in the event they get caught in wires. In addition, the firefighters practiced breaking through sheet-rock and concrete walls, as well as cutting ventilation holes in commercial roofing.
During an afternoon scenario both training days, the firefighters simulated a fire in a large vacant department store with three firefighters who found themselves in need of help in separate locations throughout the building. Several rescue teams, known as rapid intervention (RIT) teams, entered the building to search for and remove the downed firefighters.
Boston 25 News tagged along with one of the training instructors, Rockland Deputy Fire Chief Thomas Heaney, as firefighters raced to rescue one of their own inside the old JCPenney.
The training facilitators tried to replicate the exact conditions the firefighters would face in a real emergency by using artificial smoke, loud background noise and several obstacles.
The RIT team followed the fire hose through the building, all the way to the nozzle. They then searched the area, quickly realizing the downed firefighter was behind a wall. They immediately breached the wall, grabbed the firefighter, slid him out and started performing life-saving measures. A second RIT team soon arrived to relive the first group. Within minutes, the second team and the downed firefighter were out of the building.
Heaney told Boston 25 News training exercises are critical to successful outcomes.
“You can never train too much for a job that can kill you,” Heaney said.
Hanover Deputy Fire Chief Jason Cavallaro organized the training event after the mall presented him with the unique opportunity.
“The mall was very open about what they were going to allow us to do,” Cavallaro told Boston 25 News. “Something of this magnitude, this size, that offers this much space and many options to come up with skills, drills and scenarios is very rare.”
Cavallaro said the ability to draw upon the expertise of the eleven neighboring fire departments who attended the training made for a successful event.
“When we were coming up with the list of who was going to come to the training, we had some towns on that list and I said we’re never going to work with them,” Cavallaro recalled. “Then, just a couple of weeks ago, everyone at this training was at a fire we had in town. It does happen.”
The demolition of the mall is slated to begin this month.
© 2020 © 2020 Cox Media Group