SANDPOINT — Selkirk Fire, Rescue and EMS crews couldn’t burn a real house down for their latest round of training, so they got creative. At the Sagle station, they built three rooms.
“At the Sagle station, Station 3, we built three rooms,” said Selkirk Battalion Chief Jason Cordle. “... We built them, we drywalled them, we wired them for electricity, we put furniture in the rooms — TVs, beds; we made them look like actual bedrooms or living rooms — and then the fire marshall’s office lit them on fire.”
The fire was part of a class the crews took over the weekend called “Arson Detection for the First Responder.”
The three-day class was sponsored by the Idaho State Fire Marshal’s office and the Idaho State Fire Service Technology. The class was hosted by Selkirk, attended by firefighters from the Coeur d’Alene, Spirit Lake and South Boundary fire departments, as well as firefighters from Kootenai County Fire and Rescue and a trooper from Idaho State Police.
The class is designed to assist first responders in determining cause and origin of fires, such as whether it was intentional or not, and if it was intentional, what means were used?
The students spent about 12 hours of classroom time throughout the weekend and eight-10 hours of investigation on real fires. That is where the three mock rooms came in. The rooms were burned on Friday and the students spent the day Sunday going through them as they would an actual fire, investigating, collecting evidence, collecting samples and more.
“At the end of the day, they all come up with what their theory is of where the fire started, how the fire started and the overall cause of what was going on,” Cordle said.
Some of the “causes” of the fires included a shorted-out electrical outlet or a coffee pot, while a couple of them were started with accelerants to simulate arson, Cordle said.
“We have quite a few guys training right now in fire investigation in our department and we just want to get everyone up to speed,” Cordle said. “The sooner we can get trained eyes on the ground and in the rooms, the quicker it’s going to help us determine what it was. It helps the insurance companies and law enforcement draw the proper conclusions as to what happened and how it happened.”
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.