Preparedness in action

Published 7:14 pm Friday, March 22, 2019

Three Danville firefighters showed up at The Advocate-Messenger Friday, but not due to smoke or fire. Lt. David Spanyer and firefighters Justin McBride and Ryan Sizemore were doing pre-incident surveys, a duty important to fire departments.

Danville firefighters Ryan Sizemore, from left, Lt. David Spanyer and Justin McBride check out the old press room of The Advocate-Messenger building. Photo by Bobbie Curd

They constantly visit commercial buildings within the central fire department’s district, walking through and getting acquainted with exits and hidden doors, for example, in order to know what they’re dealing with if they should get a call.

Lt. David Spanyer said  the fire marshal “does the real inspection, where he gives warnings for fire code violations … We’re here for ourselves, so if we get a fire alarm we know what we’re dealing with.”

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On the outside of buildings, they check for hydrants and other water sources, sprinkler connections … Once inside, they always ask for the occupancy level.

“We ask how many work there, that way if we come back here in three hours because of a bad fire, we know how many people are in the building,” Spanyer said.

The three walked through each hallway, checking out building maps and the security system. Once inside the old server room, they pointed to a huge tank — explaining it holds an agent which automatically reacts when heat detectors go off, and releases into the room, depleting it of oxygen, which feeds fire. It’s used since fire extinguishers or water, of course, will destroy the electrical computer equipment.

The old pressroom has a huge, concrete pit where the newspaper press sat down in. Firefighters Ryan Sizemore, left, and Justin McBride stand in the pit.

The alarm will sound, and usually you have about 30 seconds to leave the room, they said. But it wouldn’t affect them, since they would be wearing a breathing apparatus.

As they got to the floor overlooking the old pressroom, the three stared into the window, simultaneously saying, “Wow.” The room has a huge, concrete pit where the newspaper press sat down in.

Areas like this, they say, are exactly why they do surveys — it could be a hazard if the room were charred with smoke, making them unable to see what’s in front of them.

Part of their job is to know local buildings’ layouts, and how everything inside works, they said.

The guys normally carry about 75 pounds of extra gear on them, they said; add a 150-pound man they may have to carry out and it makes it increasingly important to be able to watch your step and know what’s on the other side of a door.