Washtenaw County Technical Rescue Team Trains in Soon-To-Be Demolished Home

Where city councilors and ordinance officers see blighted, vacant homes that need to be demolished, firefighters see an opportunity for valuable training they hope will help saves lives one day.

The Washtenaw County Technical Rescue Team gathered at the old Karpinski house at 207 S. Monroe St., Monday morning for training. Nearly every fire department in the county was represented by two firefighters at Monday’s exercise. Huron Valley Ambulance also had employees on the scene.

Early in the morning, Saline firefighter Lt. Dan Speicher and Greg Payeur, an officer in the rescue team, met at the home to set up the exercise. Speicher owns an excavating company. They put one dummy “patient” upstairs and another on the main floor. Speicher dug a hole in the side of the house. They put two dummy patients in an old car from Manchester Collision and Towing and then pushed into the house. Then they collapsed the house around the car.

When the Washtenaw County Technical Rescue Team gathered, it was their job to find the patients in the house, stabilize the house and try to get the patients from the vehicle.

“We’re running a scenario with a car into a building and patients trapped. Our team was dispatched out. We showed up, ran through our full command control. We’re putting up shoring so we can access the patients. Our search crews are going around trying to locate patients. Our EMS team is treating patients. Once the victims are accessed, our rescue teams are going in and making the rescues,” Payeur said. “With the car in the building, that’s a pretty complicated process.”

By 11 a.m., the team was into the second phase of the operation.

“We’re into the shoring part of the operation, which is to stabilize this building. Right now, the majority of the structure has been knocked out. Almost all of the load-bearing structure is gone. Our job is to secure the structure so it’s safe for us to egress the patient and bring them out,” Payeur out.

The car had sunk into the basement, so the rescue team worked to lift the car up. Then they cut the car apart to remove the patients.

Payeur said Monday’s exercise was important.

“You don’t get a lot of opportunities like this. To have a building like this and to have an excavator come out and donate his time and resources for an operation like this is invaluable,” Payeur said. “In real life, when we get out and see these things, we’ll be prepared for them. You can’t train for these sorts of operations in regular buildings.”

Even thought it was a training exercise, the rescue team was working in a dangerous space.

“It’s one of the most dangerous situations you’ll ever go into because it looks fine, but everything we do as rescuers has consequence. Every piece we move out of this building has a ramification. It’s like playing Jenga,” Payeur said.

The rescue team has responded to several building collapses, including tornados, house explosions and cars into buildings.

There are 65 members of the Washtenaw County Technical Rescue Team. About 40 were on hand for Monday’s exercise.

Firefighters started at 7:30 a.m. and expected to be on the scene for 10 hours.

Lt. Speicher said City Manager Todd Campbell and property owner Damian Farrell were helpful in arranging for the training exercise.

Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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