South Derry firefighters practice on building before demolition

By Shawn Cunningham
©2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Fire fighter Jeff Cavagnino checks out the infrared camera before entering the building. Photos by Bruce Frauman

There was  a lot of  smoke, but no fire last week, as the Champion Fire Company turned out at the former Outlet Barn on Rt. 11 to practice interior search and rescue. That’s most likely the last purpose the property will serve before it’s taken down in the next week or so.

The Outlet Barn buildings were flooded during Tropical Storm Irene in August of 2011. It was supposed be part of a FEMA buyout that would have seen all the structures on the property – including a retaining wall – removed. But when it ended up in a bureaucratic impasse between the FEMA and VTrans over the retaining wall, the State of Vermont provided a community development block grant to buy the property and tear the buildings down.

In the meantime, the Londonderry Select Board approved the use of the building for a fire drill and thus, 18 firefighters donned self-contained breathing equipment last Wednesday night and took turns leading each other in trying to find a “victim” — played by another firefighter — in the house while it was filled with non-toxic, simulated smoke.

Champion company members exit the building after a drill.

Smoke blinds people in a fire so techniques and tools have been developed to help firefighters cope with smoke and do their jobs.

“This is a good refresher for the veterans, and a great way to get air pack training for newer firefighters,” said Assistant Chief Matt Mosher. “Like scuba diving, this is not for everyone and this is a safe, controlled way to find out if you want to do this.”

Mosher said the fire company made the inside dark and filled it with the fake smoke. Then, firefighters could do very realistic simulated search and rescue drills, practicing techniques for searches, opening doors and venting. They also worked on “rapid intervention team” techniques used to locate and extricate a downed firefighter.

“It’s good to do this in a building nobody is going to worry about,” said Mosher. “You wouldn’t want to do this stuff in your house.”

Company members talk over the practice.

Modern fire companies use infrared cameras to see through the smoke and find sources of heat, including people. One of the drills involved finding a volunteer in the darkened, smoke-filled rooms using the ghostly images produced by the specialized camera.

“It was very gracious of local, state and federal officials to let us do this practice,” said Mosher, giving Champion Capt. Troy Maynard the credit for spearheading the effort.

“This kind of training has a big payoff,” said Mosher.

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  1. Trish Adams McNaull says:

    This was the long-time home of my paternal grandparents, Clyde and Bess Adams. My dad, Doug Adams, his twin, Don Adams, and their sisters, Shirley (Bryson) and Helen (Lyons) grew up in this house, which was adjacent to the old family country store. This structures burned in 1962, at which time my father and uncle started the market and subsequent shopping center. I am glad none of us still reside in town to see the demise of such a lovely old home, full of memories and family holidays. I do hope the site is destined to be a green space.