EDMOND — Smoke was rolling out the front door of the old Parkside Osteopathic Hospital as firefighters put on their gear to go inside for a training exercise.
Two vagrants were reported to be in the building. One had managed to get outside, and the other was still trapped inside and needed Edmond firefighters to search the smoke-filled building.
A firefighter got lost inside, fell to the basement and now needed help from his fellow firefighters inside the building at Fourth Street and Littler Avenue.
Three crews of firefighters were on the scene for what appeared to be a real-life situation. But it wasn't.
It was a self-contained breathing apparatus drill held by the fire department twice a year. This time the drill was held in an unfamiliar building downtown instead of the department's training facility.
“The drill is about decision-making and placing challenges in the way,” said Jon Neely, chief training officer.
The smoke wasn't real either. It was theatrical smoke. The windows of the building, now owned by the University of Central Oklahoma, were covered with black plastic, making it even more difficult for the firefighters.
“It is dark in there,” Neely said. “You can't see your hand in front of your face. They have a flashlight, but it doesn't help.”
Firefighters crawled on the floor, holding a fire hose in one hand.
Edmond has 105 firefighters, who must participate in at least one of the two drills held each year.
“We want to make sure our skills are up where they are supposed to be,” Neely said.
Edmond has an extensive training facility near Covell Road and Interstate 35. After repeated training exercises in the same building, firefighters become familiar with the structure. Using a building where firefighters are not familiar creates new challenges for them.
“This building is difficult,” Neely said. “It is old and a very cutup building. They don't deal with this type of building very often. It challenges their skills to find their way around the building.”
The training exercise started last week and concluded Monday.
“It is extremely important for us to have these training drills,” said fire Maj. Kelly Lewis. “We want to keep our guys safe and go home.”