Old Post Independent building serves as fire training ground
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Don’t be alarmed if you see fire trucks in the parking lot of the old Glenwood Springs Post Independent building next week and flames flickering inside an upstairs window.
The Glenwood Springs Fire Department has been using the vacant building at 2014 Grand Ave. for various training exercises since the newspaper offices moved out last September to new digs downtown.
On Sunday, March 4, and again next Tuesday, March 6, the fire department will be setting individual rooms inside the building on fire and putting the blazes out as a training exercise, according to Glenwood Fire Capt. Pete Bradshaw.
“We’re not going to be burning the building down,” Bradshaw said. “Those days are long since over for fire departments.”
While it was common many years ago for fire departments to burn old buildings completely down for training purposes, modern safety guidelines no longer allow that, he said.
“We will be burning two of the upstairs offices,” Bradshaw explained. “We’ve spent a lot of time preparing for this drill, re-doing the drywall to make sure the fire stays where we want it to stay.”
Anyone passing by will probably only notice an unusual number of emergency vehicles and increased fire personnel activity on the site, he said.
“You’ve not going to see flames shooting from the roof,” he said. “And there’s probably not going to be a huge amount of smoke.”
Firefighters from Burning Mountains and Rifle fire protection districts will also be participating. Emergency medical services and on-duty staff will also be on hand for the safety of the trainees.
No street closures are planned. But the parking lot, which is shared with the neighboring Taco Bell restaurant, will be closed all week.
The former Post Independent property was sold last fall by the PI’s parent company, Swift Communications, to FirstBank Holding Co.
The banking company is planning to demolish the 1980s-era structure later this month to make way for a new bank building. It is slated to open in November.
“It’s not very often that we get to train in a commercial structure like this,” Bradshaw said. “FirstBank has been really gracious in letting us use the building.”
Over the past five months, the fire department has been conducting a variety of training exercises there, involving most of the department’s 40 personnel.
“It’s a great place to simulate hose line advancement because of all the space in the parking lot,” Bradshaw said. “That’s something we don’t get to do very often.”
Other drills have involved filling rooms with smoke and practicing the use of a self-contained breathing apparatus.
“We also did what’s called a Denver drill, simulating a rescue situation from a case in Denver that resulted in a firefighter fatality,” he said.
Because the building is going to be destroyed, he said, they’ve been able to take saws to the drywall and metal siding for some of the training drills.
Other emergency agencies, including the Glenwood Springs Police and the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office All Hazards Response Team (AHRT), have made use of the facility as well.
“We’re always looking for different venues, and structures where we can train,” said Garfield County Undersheriff Colt Cornelius, who is the commander of AHRT.
“The Post Independent building allowed us to do some different things than we’re used to,” he said. “For instance, if there’s a potential suspect hiding within the building, we can put together a team to go in and clear the building, then try to locate that person.”
Last week, AHRT personnel used small explosive devices to practice breaching sealed entryways and walls.
“It’s something new and a little different for us,” Cornelius said.
He added that if any other property owner has a building that is to be demolished, emergency response agencies are always looking for new places to conduct drills.
Any questions about next week’s training exercise at the Post Independent building should be directed to the Glenwood Springs Fire Department at (970) 384-6480.
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