If you see smoke coming out of the abandoned Kim's Restaurant today, don't call 911. Emergency crews are already there.
Medford Fire-Rescue and Jackson County Fire District No. 3 are training new recruits this week on how to rescue a downed firefighter out of a burning building.
Medford Deputy Fire Chief Justin Bates said the Coquille Indian Tribe, which owns the property at 2321 S. Pacific Highway and hopes to establish a casino there, offered to let the agencies use it at no charge.
"We don't get this opportunity very often, so we like to take advantage of this," Bates said.
Armed with axes and sledgehammers, the newly minted firefighters on Wednesday punched holes in walls — with assisting team members close behind — to pull their downed comrade to safety in a procedure called rapid intervention team deployment.
"In the event of a downed firefighter (who) has some kind of problem, our guys on the outside are ready to be deployed inside," said District 3 firefighter Mark Tomasello, who's been with the department for a month.
The new recruits also will get some ladder and hose training. Trainers plan to use theatrical smoke to disorient firefighters during the drills.
Though there are several different training facilities, including District 3's in White City and a fire station by the Railroad Park off Table Rock Road, new, unfamiliar environments better prepare firefighters for real emergency calls, their chiefs say.
"Those guys kind of get to know the building, and it's familiar to them," Bates said. "Whenever we put them in a different building that they're not familiar with, it's really eye-opening because there are different challenges and different configurations of rooms."
Trainees agreed on the effectiveness of breaking from the usual training environment.
"It's night and day, the difference between training on a little prop and actually getting to break through a normal wall that we're going to come in contact with on a daily basis," said Jeff Benyo, a Medford Fire-Rescue firefighter. He's been with the department for a month, too. "We get to go in and you get to expect the unexpected, which is what we prepare for."
The exercises are designed to build communication among firefighters, which they say is crucial when those out-of-nowhere scenarios strike.
"It's no secret; communication is our No. 1 key factor," said Medford firefighter Seth McEwen. "We want to make sure we communicate where we're at, what we're doing. We also want to be familiar with what we're doing as far as orientation in the building, not getting lost."
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.