Following his first year as the fire chief of Washington Fire Department (WFD), Tim Downing is focused on bringing more training experiences and risk reduction to the area.
One of the newest training items the department recently obtained for firefighters was “forcible entry doors,” according to Downing. The training item came into discussion once local firefighter Matt Smith attended training in a different city and suggested it as a useful tool to have at the WFD.
The tool has two different doors on it along with several attachments to allow the firefighters to practice forcing an entry into various styles of entryways. In order to help save on costs, small blocks of wood are used to block the doors so they have to break the wood to “force” the doors to open. The wood is then simply slid out so a different block can be used.
Another training tool the firefighters built is a miniature house with different trap doors to experiment with and educate the public about the way a fire spreads. Essentially, one of the main points to this is showing that if a room is sealed off from a fire, there will be less smoke and fire damage to that room.
Smith and Downing made the suggestion that people should keep bedroom doors closed when sleeping at night in case of a fire.
Smith explained the miniature house can be made inexpensively using the same building material that a lot of houses use now.
“The guys here are fantastic,” said Downing. “We have monthly captain meetings now and we’ve never had monthly captain meetings since I’ve been with the fire department.”
There are three captains in total, one for each shift.
Downing explained that shifts for firefighters work differently than what many people are used to. The shifts are 24 hours long. Each shift works one day, then has two days off.
“We get together and the captain and I discuss where we are as a department, where we’re going as a department,” said Downing.
They also use these meetings to help update the department’s standard operating procedures to match current needs of the community and of the department, along with creating long-term plans to work toward.
Safety isn’t just a priority within the city limits. Downing explained there is a bi-monthly chief meeting where all chiefs in the county come together. Although welcome to attend, EMA and law enforcement have not been able to attend yet.
“As a group of fire chiefs and EMS personnel, one of our goals that comes out of those meetings is to get all the county departments working together or training together more frequently,” he said.
Downing explained there is at least one bigger project that is currently being talked about, although there are no definite plans. That project would involve the creation of a small training facility that all fire departments within the county would be able to use.
One idea for training purposes is underway, and it is the use of a shipping container being turned into a “search and rescue” training simulator, according to Downing. This shipping container was already figured into the fire department’s budget and will be set up later this year.
“It’ll also be something if law enforcement chooses to use they can use it to practice entering homes,” said Downing.
Training isn’t just to improve the firefighters’ safety and ability to actively help in emergency situations. Downing explained the department travels into the community to give educational discussions, CPR demonstrations, fire inspections, etc.
Downing said the department completed over 60 fire inspections last year. The fire inspections are offered by the department at no cost for various purposes including general home inspections, business inspections, foster home inspections, etc. Anyone is welcome to request an inspection.
“We don’t charge a fee for inspections, we don’t charge fines—we can but we choose not to,” said Downing. “We just want to reduce risk.”