DFD opens new training facility

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpressonline.com

The Darlington Fire Department put the finishing touches on their new Broad Street training building last week, with firefighters working hard to get the place ready for spring exercises.

The 1,800 square-foot building, formerly home to Weaver Electric, has been used for several years to store old City of Darlington equipment, but DFD Chief Pat Cavanaugh saw the potential to put the dormant structure to good use. He secured donations from several local businesses: Darlington Veneer donated plywood to frame interior rooms, H & S Floors and Furnishings donated old appliances to fill out a kitchen and laundry room, Georgia Pacific lent financial help. Also, DFD personnel went dumpster diving to find bedframes and mattresses.

The end result is a mock home that will host a wide variety of first responder-specific drills. On-site exercises will include search and rescue, fire, and medical training, and Cavanaugh says the building includes several custom alterations specific to firefighter training needs.

Hinged cutaways near the floor allow firefighters to hit the deck and practice rescues from confined spaces. Breakaway sheet rock panels are installed in some rooms so crews can practice breaching walls and squeezing between the 18-inch gaps between wall studs.

Cavanaugh reckons that building a similar structure from scratch could have cost nearly $200,000, but with all the donations of materials and labor, the price tag was close to nil.

The mock home even has a few tenants – a family of three rescue dummies which, in keeping with the low-cost ethos, DFD wove out of fire hoses as a kind of arts and crafts project. The zero-dollar fire hose family provides yet another savings, since a regular rescue dummy costs about a thousand bucks.

“Fire Engineering put this in their magazine,” says Cavanaugh, noting that each woven dummy weighs the same as an average adult or child. “You can simulate finding a real person and dragging them out.”

For use in thermal camera drills, the dummies have hot packs tucked into their pockets so rescuers can locate them through the smoke.

The benefits of having this training site in Darlington go beyond the financial. Cavanaugh says it should allow all department personnel to participate in exercises at the same time, which wasn’t possible when DFD firefighters had to travel to the Darlington County Fire District training facility since a crew had to remain behind to man the station and field calls.

“If we have our own training facility here in town, we can provide more up to date training and they can stay in the area, so if they’re on duty they can still answer calls while they’re training,” said Cavanaugh.

Chief Cavanaugh says fire training is set to begin the week of March 16 at the new site, so don’t be too alarmed if you see smoke. There’s probably a fireman, or a few dozen, nearby.

Author: Duane Childers

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