The Santa Barbara City Fire Department conducted a mock rescue training scenario at the Granada Saturday morning to prepare firefighters for multi-story fire situations.
The two-hour drill began at 7:30 a.m, blocking off State Street from Anapamu to Victoria with four fire engines while a smoke machine within the Granada imitated a building fire. Saturday’s drill was the first of three scheduled training sessions to teach firefighters specific situational skills in the event of multi-level structure fires.
According to Santa Barbara Fire Department’s Captain Pitney the drill included two separate situational search-and-rescues.
“The Granada is iconic in Santa Barbara and its renovations were a major factor in beginning these sessions,” Pitney said. “In each session, there are two rescue scenarios we go through where one of the firefighters plays victim. For the first, we send a crew in to fight the fire and for the second, we use an aerial ladder to rescue.”
Pitney said the logistics of the training series— which required organizing the resources and head count and coordinating the schedule so it would conflict the least with city traffic— took the county nearly a year and a half to organize.
According to Santa Barbara Fire Department’s Captain Matt Wilson, the drill teaches firefighters about the demands of fighting a high-rise building fire.
“It is not like walking in the front door,” Wilson said “You have to deal with the challenges of multiple floors, like uncertainty about access points, including the elevators and stairs as well as having to search multiple levels. It is tough to get equipment up there and breathing apparatus bottles run out quickly. Basically, there is a chain of command and a lot of coordination involved.”
The department held a meeting after each session for firefighters to discuss the ways to improve their performances during the drill.
According to Battalion Chief Steve Berman, the department compiles a report that details what worked in each session as well as possible procedural improvements.
“Once we are done, we do a de-briefing around the room,” Berman said. “The firefighters better realize the type of equipment that is best to bring especially since going up and down [the building stairs] takes time, so we keep a supply of air bottles in a staging area so we do not run out.”
Pitney said the first training session provided an opportunity for station members to test and improve their capabilities.
“It went well,” Pitney said. “I would give the session an A-, but there is always room for improvement.”