Blowin’ smoke in Bayview: Firefighters hone their fire-ventilation skills

BAYVIEW — It’s a case where blowing smoke was a good thing.

More than two dozen local firefighters honed their skills inside a makeshift structure in Bayview this past Saturday morning, concentrating on “positive-pressure ventilation.”

It was a makeup session, the last of six conducted by Island County Fire District 3 to fine-tune its officers and volunteers.

“There was a tremendous amount of good training,” said Deputy Chief Mike Cotton. “Everybody had a good time putting the wet stuff on the red stuff.”

The goal of the ventilation technique is to clear away as much smoke as possible in a burning building so that flames, and victims, can be located.

Large gas-powered fans are set up in front of an entry point, a door for example. Then a smaller opening, perhaps a window, is opened on an opposite wall.

The fans force more air into a room than there is air escaping, pushing the smoke through the smaller opening.

It’s a technique that has been around for a number of years, but is continually being refined, Cotton said.

The practice sessions were supervised by Jim Tower, captain of the Langley Fire Station, who received special instruction in the technique before training started.

More than 60 officers and volunteers took part in the sessions, which were conducted in a roughly built structure especially designed for the purpose, Cotton said.

Among those participating were a couple of new recruits, part of the current training class of 12 that will join the district in January.

Besides practicing their ventilation skills, the firefighters also worked on search-and-rescue operations using mannequins, Cotton said.

He said the building was specially designed for the task, simulating a set of interior walls and hallways that might be found in a typical small island house.

It was built on the district’s 4.5-acre parcel at Bayview Corner between Bayview School and the Good Cheer Food Bank. The property was purchased as the site of an eventual district headquarters and training facility.

The current economy has put plans for that project on hold.

Meanwhile, firefighters have also used the property to practice dealing with vehicle wrecks.

Cotton said this round of training at Bayview is complete, and that the building will be dismantled and its core framing stored for future use.

“It’s not the prettiest building in the world,” he said. “It will be gone by the end of the month.”

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