Firefighters battle the real thing in training

Not all fire training is simulated. Earlier this month, 47 firefighters from North Whidbey Fire and Rescue, Oak Harbor and Navy Region Northwest fire departments gained hands-on experience in a real-life house fire, thanks to a donation from Wayne McAninch.

“Rarely do we get an opportunity to actually have a house fire that we can practice on,” said North Whidbey Fire and Rescue Chief Marv Koorn.

The day provided an opportunity for the different departments to work together, listen and respond to commands and changing situations.

“Training fires are dangerous. People get killed every year in training fires in the U.S.,” the chief said. “We don’t want anyone hurt, let alone killed.”

The training also gave North Whidbey Fire and Rescue firefighters an opportunity to use their new self contained breathing apparatus, also called SCBAs. Over the past 6 weeks, the crew trained with the new devices, but this was their first chance to use them in a structure fire. The SCBAs were purchased with a Homeland Security grant earlier this year.

While the team of firemen and women rotated through training, McAninch kept them fed with burgers and other snacks.

“It’s the least I could do,” he said.

McAninch had plans to demolish the building and rebuilt on the lot, so he decided to donate the 60-year-old green, ranch-style house to the fire department for burn training.

“It’s the best training they can have,” he said. “If my house was on fire I’d want them to come help me out.”

But it was still difficult to see the house that served as his family’s home since 1973 burn to the ground.

“We have mixed emotions. It was home, but we’re going to build a new home,” McAninch said.

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