Former Missouri Frat House Becomes Fire Department Training Site

The Columbia Fire Department was conducting a training exercise as part of a week-long event at the former home of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.
(Columbia, MO Fire Department photo, Facebook)

Columbia firefighters train in fraternity house
before demolition

Charles Dunlap, Columbia Daily Tribune, Mo.


Smoke was seen coming from an upper-floor window of a Greek house on the University of Missouri campus early Wednesday. The building was not on fire, though.

The Columbia Fire Department was conducting a training exercise as part of a weeklong event at 600 Rollins St., the former home of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. The building is set for demolition, which meant the department had an opportunity to use it as a training ground.

The department learned of the building’s planned demolition through the city’s permit office, Assistant Chief Brad Frazier said.

“We reached out to the owner and the construction company, and they allowed us to go in this week before they demolish it,” he said.

This mirrors a training from January at the Boone County Electric Cooperative that incorporated other emergency and law enforcement training.

While the training exercises are similar to those done in January, it is a different building, which presents its own challenges.

“(This) gives us an opportunity to train in a real-life environment. Something that is unique,” Frazier said.

The department informs the public about training exercises through signage outside of a building and through public news releases. The police department and Boone County Joint Communications is notified in case they receive any calls.

“There is always that chance that someone is not going to know,” Frazier said.

What were the training exercises?

The department was simulating a fire in the third floor of the fraternity building Wednesday. With that, they were running a water-charged hose line up to that floor. Firefighters also had to identify which room contained the simulated fire to put it out.

Firefighters are fully geared up during the exercises.

It also contained a search-and-rescue element, with other staff acting as civilians still in the upper floors.

A refresher in a search technique was given by Elizabeth Leiva. Instead of crawling on hands and knees, firefighters now use a method known as crook and lean.

“You can have your foot on the wall and reach out, look for windows and your head is up,” she said during the demonstration. “It is much easier, a lot faster and you get more of a view and more reach that way.”

Firefighters still are in a crouched position, but now only one leg is bent while the other can search along the floor looking for weak spots or obstacles, while a firefighter’s hands do the same.

“We also simulate a firefighter mayday, where a firefighter is down and needs to be extracted,” Frazier said. “That is another set of skills and techniques to go in and get one of our folks out.”

Training took place inside and outside of the building. The exterior exercise is known as vertical ventilation. This is when firefighters will cut a hole through the roof above a fire to let heat and other gases vent out through the top of a building, Frazier said.

“It improves conditions for us inside and allows us to get in, find people and put the fire out quicker,” he said. “We coordinate that activity.”

Since the fraternity has a basement, that allowed for another escape exercise. While there were windows that were larger than most basement windows, they still are elevated higher when a person is in the room.

“When you get in a basement, it’s hard to (climb) up and get out if you have all your gear on as well,” Frazier said.

This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Smoke, but no fire: Columbia Fire Department conducts training at former MU Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house


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