As firefighters from Anaheim Fire & Rescue calmly walked through Wyndham’s WorldMark hotel in June, a front desk clerk took the chance to clarify to any nearby guests the un-severity of the situation.
“Just training,” the clerk announced while handing out breakfast doughnuts. “No need to be alarmed.”
Training to address fires within high-rise buildings was the name of the game for the 11 firefighters and their leaders at the Katella Avenue hotel that morning. They were there to refresh their skills on the intricacies of doing their jobs within such massive buildings: hooking up hoses, knowing which equipment to use, where things are located, even the ins and outs of WorldMark’s fire alarm control center.
Captain Marcel Medina of Fire Station 3, located across the way from the WorldMark on Clementine Street, led the morning’s training. Firefighter Woo Kim of Engine 3 assisted with training for the exercise, which included lugging hundreds of pounds of equipment up to the hotel’s sixth floor. Of all that, one small piece of gear was among the most important: wooden wedges, which hold the stairway doors open.
With Anaheim’s many buildings of different sizes — the firefighters consider anything above five stories to be a high-rise — and their varied layouts, it’s up to firefighters to familiarize themselves with a location in a low-pressure training setting before handling a high-pressure emergency call there.
Medina noted that this can mean finding the best spot to park the fire trucks or knowing the type of radio and electrical equipment the building has installed.
The WorldMark’s setup is among the best, as it were. The hotel has an advanced fire alarm control room located off the front lobby. Inside it is a host of communications equipment and a fire alarm annunciator board. The board can pinpoint where inside the vast building a smoke alarm or fire sprinkler was triggered, among other features.
The day’s training was also simply about being efficient, Medina added.
“Our industry changes all the time,” he said. “Unfortunately, it changes because people get hurt or die, whether it’s citizens or one of our own firefighters.”
Captain Medina pointed to the One Meridian Plaza incident in Philadelphia in 1991. A fire broke out in the 38-story high-rise. Three firefighters died fighting the blaze. Part of the problem was insufficient water pressure for the first responders to do their jobs.
Since then, fire departments have used a different hose, Captain Medina said. However, as he explained to the crews, the hose can still kink inside the stairwells. Therefore, it’s one firefighter’s important duty to man the floor’s standpipe, maintain water pressure and ensure no kinks are in hose line. Kinks would cut the flow of water.
Anaheim is a storied and proud department, he added. High-rise training will be important as the city continues to develop more hotels and apartment complexes.
“We love doing this,” said Captain Medina, “and we have to keep doing better. We owe it to the citizens of Anaheim to do this, and we owe it to each other.”