DeKALB – With multiple houses along Hollister Avenue set for demolition in the coming weeks, the DeKalb and Sycamore fire departments decided to team up for training exercises in the vacant buildings.
Tuesday through Thursday, firefighters and paramedics from each department played out various scenarios in which both cities would respond to the same emergency.
Although each department trains regularly, Sycamore Assistant Fire Chief Todd Turner said it has been a long time since Sycamore and DeKalb trained together.
“Especially in northeast DeKalb or southwest Sycamore, DeKalb’s downtown station would be responding, but if it was a structure, Sycamore may get there first, so this is about how we can work together,” Turner said.
To simulate an emergency, a house was filled with artificial smoke, and two child-sized dummies were hidden inside. In their full gear, first responders had to put out the “blaze,” signified by a strobing flashlight, and rescue the dummies.
Other responders had to vent the building’s roof with hand tools and a power saw.
DeKalb Deputy Fire Chief James Zarek said it was important to test the men under unusual conditions, so the order of responders was continuously shuffled.
“Rather than training for an ordinary call, we want to think outside the box,” Zarek said. “We always train for what does happen, but it’s important for us to train on what doesn’t always happen.”
About one-third of each department performed two to three drills each day before noon.
With temperatures reaching the 90s this week, plenty of drinking water was on hand.
Zarek said the original plan was to bring adult-sized dummies, which weigh up to 175 pounds, but with the high temperatures and men running around in full gear, he did not want anyone to harm themselves and be left unable to finish a 24-hour shift.
One fire crew was also on hand during each round of training to handle any emergency calls that came in.
The 19 Hollister Avenue properties are set to be demolished as part of a $46 million plan to modernize the Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District’s outdated water treatment plant.
Representatives from Nicor Gas have been at the houses all week to cut power before demolition.
Houses that were used for training already had their power cut, Zarek said.