At a glance, the number of emergency vehicles surrounding Doane’s Colonial and Burrage Halls on Sunday, June 19 might have looked alarming. Two trucks had ladders extended to the roof of Burrage, with a steady stream of firefighters in full gear climbing up and down. A Crete ambulance sat between the trucks.
On the roof, they used chainsaws to cut ventilation holes. But thankfully, it wasn’t because of a fire.
It was for education. Fire departments from across the region — Beatrice, Dorchester, Wilber, Plymouth, Hallam and Southwest Rural Lancaster County — sent volunteers and staff to learn and practice creating vertical ventilation holes and breaking down doors with Crete’s Volunteer Fire Department (CVFD).
“It’s very helpful for us. It’s very real-world,” said Harrison Gaman ‘12, CVFD fire captain and firefighter with Lincoln Fire & Rescue (LFR).
In the past, they’ve trained on sheets of plywood, but it’s not nearly the same as being on an actual roof, cutting through hot, heavy shingles and getting to feel the difference in resistance, Gaman said. Gaman was one of the first Doane students to volunteer for the department while completing his degree and has stayed on ever since.
The emphasis Sunday was on hot, as the day quickly reached temperatures in the high 80s plus humidity during the morning training. Most of the participants cycled in and out of their heavy gear in between training sessions.
Vertical ventilation is an important part of getting a building fire under control. The tactic allows heat and smoke to escape instead of collecting inside a building, obscuring visuals of the fire itself, hazards, or people and animals in need of rescue.
There’s also a lot more to breaking open a door than simply giving it a kick — which is actually a good way to end up on your butt, to paraphrase Gaman. Some doors might have a bar behind them. Your technique also changes depending on if the door opens toward or away from you.
The training came together quickly after word of the Quads being demolished was spread in early May. James Yost, CVFD assistant chief and captain with LFR, reached out to Doane’s facilities and construction departments to make the request.
“It’s a great way to serve the community,” said Scott Sieck, manager of maintenance services. Sieck was on site Sunday to help coordinate, monitor and answer any questions about the building if needed.
And, honestly, it was pretty neat to watch the training. Several family members of Doane employees and firefighters sat on benches or folding chairs. When they weren’t on the roof or breaking open doors, firefighters from different departments had a chance to drink water, grab a snack and chat in the shade of the arboretum that makes up the university’s campus.
The Crete VFD in particular has a number of Doane students, alumni and faculty in its roster. In some ways, it was a mini reunion, with alumni reminiscing about their years in the Quads.
“They changed these doors at some point,” Gaman said, as he coached a group of firefighters on breaking open — and not easily, either — Burrage’s metal exterior doors.