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First responders from 17 Calif. departments participate in high-rise fire training

County-wide mutual aid drill in Monterey focused on firefighting and communication


Having multiple agencies on the scene helped the firefighters practice communicating with different departments. Monterey Fire Division Chief Greg Greenlee said there is a county frequency that all the departments can tap into during incidents like this.

Kyarra Harris/Monterey Herald

By Kyarra Harris
Monterey Daily Herald

MONTEREY, Calif. — The Monterey Fire Department and the Monterey County Fire Training Officers Association co-hosted a countywide, multi-agency, high-rise drill Tuesday, at the Monterey Marriott Hotel.

The purpose of the training was to exercise the county’s high-rise firefighting guidelines by providing training for local agencies and practicing communication between different departments.

Part of West Franklin Street was closed off on the side of the hotel to allow fire trucks to pull in and act out the scenario as if it was a real incident. The scenario was a fire on the eighth floor of the hotel, where several people had to be evacuated.

The Monterey Marriot closed off the sixth and seventh floors of the building for the firefighters so they could practice entering from a different corridor and maneuver through smoke to solve the problem. The eighth floor was filled with artificial smoke and a few people played victims in the fire. They were rescued and escorted to safety.

About 80 fire fighting personnel were on the scene from 17 different departments including Monterey Fire Department, Monterey Police Department, Carmel Fire Ambulance, CAL FIRE San Benito-Monterey Unit, Seaside Fire Department, Marina Fire Department, Monterey County Regional Fire District, North County Fire District, Salinas Fire Department, King City Fire Department, Greenfield Fire Department, Hollister Fire Department, American Medical Response, Monterey Peninsula College Fire Academy and County of Monterey Fire Communications.

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“This is almost what a full response would look like,” said Greg Greenlee, division chief for Monterey Fire. “The general goal is about 100 firefighters for this kind of incident and with our county being so spread out, it’s going to take time for everyone to get here. So this is a great opportunity to identify things like communication problems.”

High-rise buildings, which are defined as structures over 75 feet tall, are physically challenging according to the county, because of their size and the complexity of the fires. During the exercise, firefighters practiced using their dispatch system, communication systems and interagency operations. One of the challenges the firefighters were presented with in Tuesday’s exercise was communicating how to prioritize lives while ensuring the main problem, the fire, was put out.

“It’s really important to slow down and ensure you have all the resources you need,” said Chris Knapp, division chief with Salinas Fire. “Incidents like these can be tough when the first, second, and third fire companies get there and find victims in the hallway with a fire 150 feet away. That’s tough tactical decision-making.”

Firefighters who participated in the scenario said they found it to be a good exercise and hope the training helps build relationships and familiar faces amongst departments.

“We appreciate the support because this is necessary and we need this training,” Knapp said.

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