Ardmore firefighters use condemned houses to expand training

Sierra Rains
Ardmore firefighters gear up for a training session. The Ardmore Fire Department has recently begun using houses approved for demolition to train in.

The Ardmore Fire Department has been putting condemned houses to good use recently. 

Firefighters are accustomed to answering calls for fires and various emergencies every day— but every now and then they’ll get a different kind of call from the city letting them know a house is set to be demolished. 

After a house is approved for demolition, firefighters get the go ahead to train inside. Ardmore Fire Marshal Tim Lee said the department has been working closely with the city’s community development department on the collaboration, which is still relatively new. 

“They tell us whenever they’re fixing to be torn down and then we’ll get out there right before they tear them down,” Lee said. “We get to get out there and use them, and if we knock some holes in them, we don’t hurt anything.”

The city typically gets around $30,000 for demolitions each calendar year and the fire department has had several opportunities to expand their training recently. 

“Whenever the money is available, they’ll have demolition hearings and they’ll get an okay to demolish so many houses,” Lee said. “We’ve got several houses that have come up to be demolished so the guys are getting some good training right now on them.” 

Just last week, firefighters trained inside a dilapidated house and there may be more that become available in the upcoming weeks. Lee said firefighters regularly train at the fire station every week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. 

There, they refresh their medical training and various other techniques — but the dilapidated houses offer firefighters a chance to practice some training techniques they’ve never tried before and a way to train in more real-life settings. 

“It’s a different set-up, just like whenever we respond to a fire. You’re going to a different neighborhood that’s got different obstacles,” Lee said. “The streets are wider some places than in others. Some are farther away from the fire hydrants — It’s just different every time we roll up on the calls.”

Lee said it’s too dangerous for firefighters to actually set the structures on fire, but they get to practice forcible entries, breaking down doors, cutting holes in the roof, cutting out windows and more. 

“We get to practice on the things that we normally do every day. It’s really good training for us,” Lee said. Firefighters are required to clock a certain amount of training in order to stay up to date on their licenses, but the training also gives them something to fall back on in tough situations. 

“However you practice to train, if things are not going well, that’s the way you’ll always fall back on,” Lee said. The job of a firefighter can be very dangerous at times and the different level of training the dilapidated houses have to offer helps them stay prepared for almost any situation. 

“Sometimes we have dangerous jobs so we really have to be trained at a high level if something does go wrong,” Lee said. “Peoples’ lives depend on us being trained to do a good job so we try to stay up on our training 100%.”