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Alhambra Plans Two-Day Fire Training Exercise on Main Street

  • Alhambra Fire Department generally conducts this kind of ventilation exercise on a simulated rooftop at its training site. Photo by Alhambra Fire via Facebook.

  • The old Wondries Toyota building on Bushnell Ave. sits across the street from All Souls Church on the west end of Main St. Photo by Dominic Tovar.


The Old Wondries Toyota Building

Alhambra , CA

Firefighters from Alhambra, San Marino and South Pasadena will converge on a commercial building on Main Street next Monday and Tuesday but this time it is planned.

A press release from the city of Alhambra said fire crews from the three cites will be taking part in a training exercise at the old Wondries Toyota location on Main Street at Bushnell Ave.

Called a ventilation training exercise,the activity is scheduled to take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on November 25 and 26. The release warned residents that in addition to fire trucks in the vicinity, they may see some smoke and “hear loud noises as firefighters will be using power saws during ventilation operations on the roof.”

The overall goal, the release went on to say, will be to give firefighters the chance to “practice both offensive and defensive ventilation techniques, as well as rapid intervention and search operation techniques.”

The Wondries building has been at that location for decades and is slated for demolition at a future date. It was replaced by the new Wondries Toyota facility at 1439 W. Main Street. Despite the city’s advance notice of the exercise, some residents contacted the Alhambra Source to voice concerns over the safety of the drill as well as any environmental impact it might have on the surrounding neighborhood.

Our Dominic Tovar spoke with Alhambra Fire Department Battalion Chief Mitch Bay and got more information on the safety and environmental impact of the ventilation exercises and their importance to the firefighter’s tool kit.

Perhaps most importantly to those in the vicinity, Bray said “We’re not doing any live burning. There are no products of combustion being utilized.” He added that they would be using “simulated smoke, the same kind of smoke used on movie sets.”

He also said that the whole building had recently gone through an asbestos inspection and removal.“There will be no productions of combustion in the air,” he said. Bray called the process of ventilation a “high risk and low frequency maneuver” in structural fires. Each Alhambra fire crew has about 8-10 hours of ventilation exercise per year. Alhambra Fire does this kind of exercise frequently but usually on a simulated rooftop at their training center, located near the city arch.

He said Alhambra firefighters don’t usually get the opportunity to conduct this kind of training at a real commercial building like the Wondries location. He explained a little about the importance of the actual process.

“This tactic involves ventilating the heated gases from the structure and that helps limit the spread of a fire and improve the atmosphere of the structure,” Bray said, adding that chainsaws and other tools are used to cut the roof. “[It] increases the chance of those trapped inside a structure surviving and makes it safer/easier for firefighters to go in and save people.”

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