Some SLCF&R crew members pose for a photo mid-burn during their Learn to Burn exercise at the old Lorane Cafe earlier this month. MIKE ROTHGEB
The people of Lane County are fortunate to have so many trained and experienced men and women make up their fire and rescue district.South Lane County Fire & Rescue (SLCF&R), consisting of four fire stations, provides emergency services to residents of Southern Lane County, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Responding to anywhere from 11 to 16 calls per day, firefighters and paramedics are always on standby to help those in need.
To better serve their community and hone their skills, SLCF&R takes part in quarterly drills with their mutual-aid partners: Lorane, North Douglas, Pleasant Hill and Goshen. One way to do that is through simulated incident and training exercises. On Saturday, Feb. 3, South Lane County Fire & Rescue and Lorane Rural Fire Protection District were able to take advantage of just such an amazing learning opportunity.
Alesong Brewing & Blending, located next to King Estate Winery on Territorial Highway in Lorane, had an old structure on their property that needed removal. Instead of demolishing the building, the owner contacted his local fire department with a proposition. Alesong Brewing & Blending’s owner gave firefighters permission to use the old cafe for training, and in the process, the structure was demolished.
With career members directing and reserve firefighters taking the chance to learn, the process was beneficial to South Lane, Lorane, and Alesong Brewing & Blending. Even though the building only remained for several hours on Saturday, firefighters from both districts had spent countless hours preparing the structure for the eventual burn. Breaching holes in walls, cutting openings through the ceiling, and removing windows were just a few activities the firefighters took part in leading up to the weekend.
Early Saturday morning, firefighters filled the cafe with wooden pallets and hay bales, turning an ordinary building into an extraordinary learning opportunity.
Lorane Rural Fire Protection District and SLCF&R have a good relationship and SLCF&R commonly runs their EMS and ambulance calls due to Lorane’s size. Since SLCF&R has certified members to oversee a controlled structure burn, Lorane and South Lane worked together and shared in the exciting experience.
While South Lane County Fire & Rescue responds to numerous calls a day, not all of them are fire-related. 90 percent of the calls that SLCF&R receives are medical and ambulance in nature. Only 10 percent of their calls are related to fire, as well as alarm and hazardous material responses.
Since dealing with burning houses is a small percentage of what they do, having the chance to create the circumstances of a structural fire in a controlled setting is something that doesn’t come along every day. For many of the newer members, Saturday was their first hands-on experience with a structure fire.
Decked out in fire-insulated jackets, pants, boots and gloves, as well as breathing masks, tanks and Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) devices, firefighters took turns lighting small fires throughout the building and extinguishing them.
After everyone had their chance to practice setting and containing the small fires, the building was still standing. Early Saturday afternoon, firefighters ignited the hay and pallets with road flares and propane torches and used industrial-sized fans to stoke the small flames into a blazing inferno. Within minutes, flames licked up through the roof and black smoke billowed hundreds of feet into the air. Before long, the entire building was ablaze and firefighters practiced using their water-engines and hoses.
Extinguishing the roaring flames with the precision and skill of a trained surgeon, firefighters aimed the jets of water into the heart of the fire. Embers crackled and smoke hissed as the flames and water battled one another, blanketing the surrounding area in thick, hot steam.
At one time, SLCF&R performed controlled structure fires for residents of Lane County several times a year, but lately, it has become more of a rare occurrence. SLCF&R is always looking for that next opportunity to train their members and help their community. If you own a structure that needs demolishing and would like to assist your local fire department with their training, give the South Lane County Fire & Rescue station a call at 541-942-4493 to start the process.
SLCF&R also has a twitter account (@southlanefire) where burning questions can be answered about accidents, emergencies and important community information.
Even though the fire on Saturday was intentional, and the experience was both enlightening and educational, it still reminds us of how dangerous house fires are and the level of dedication of the individuals who don the jackets, boots and helmets. While everyone else runs away from the fires, these brave men and women run towards them. Whether it’s the middle of the night, weekend or holiday, these selfless civil servants are willing and waiting to do what it takes to save lives; we truly owe them our utmost gratitude and respect.
Whether career or reserve, county or city, seasoned veteran or recruit, it takes a special kind of person to do what they do. When you pass a firefighter on the sidewalk or see them responding to a call on the road, be sure to give them a friendly smile and a kind wave, for they would do anything for the people of this community.