In May, the Macomb Township Fire Department trained at four homes on the eastside of Romeo Plank Road, north of 21 Mile Road. Exercises included search and rescue and ventilation training.

In May, the Macomb Township Fire Department trained at four homes on the eastside of Romeo Plank Road, north of 21 Mile Road. Exercises included search and rescue and ventilation training.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Macomb Township Fire Department utilizes homes for realistic scenarios

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published May 26, 2021

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The Macomb Township Fire Department is nearing the end of a unique training opportunity.  

In April, the department was contacted by a development company who is set to construct an assisted living and senior community and wanted to donate four homes to use for training.

May 1 marked the first day of training at the site, which was set to wrap up May 23. Upon completion, the homes will be torn down to make way for the development.

The homes are located on the eastside of Romeo Plank Road, north of 21 Mile Road, across from Ray Wiegand’s Nursery. They recently became vacant.

“We are doing everything we would do on a normal fire with these,” Fire Chief Robert Phillips said. “We have the training tower, which is great, but here, nobody has been in these homes and have no idea what the layout is.”

Training included search and rescue, ventilation training where windows could be dug out or holes could be cut in the roof.

“We do rapid intervention training, which is, if one of our own firefighters goes down, a crew with special equipment would go in and do whatever it takes to get him out,” Phillips said.

Currently, the department trains at a tower behind Station No. 3 on North Avenue.

“We can only do so much with changing rooms around and all of that,” he said. “It’s a great training facility, but nothing tops being at an actual home.”

Phillips called the training probably the best the department can get and learn from it. Each firefighter will receive a minimum of two hours a week at the site, with a maximum of 10 hours.

“It’s real-life training with actual homes,” he said. “It’s’ what we would experience on a regular basis for an actual fire.”

In one of the homes, if it weren’t for a thermal imaging camera, the home’s interior could not be seen due to heavy smoke cover.

Phillips said the firefighters have been extremely thrilled to use the homes.

Sgt. Steve Stawecki was working on search and rescue May 13 and said to get four houses in a row to train in is “just crazy.”

“This is huge for us,” he said. “It’s very rare that we can get these structures.”

For forcible entry training, Stawecki said if firefighters come across a locked door, they can force open doors — something that typically can’t be done in the tower.

“In rapid intervention training, when a firefighter gets in trouble, we have a special rescue team,” he said. “This is training we just can’t replicate.”

Like Phillips, he said the training tower is fantastic, but to have actual homes, with an unknown setup, is awesome.

Firefighter Joe Warne said when dragging someone out of a home, this training helps them get a better feel.

“Rather than sliding them across concrete, it’s more of a real effect because we don’t know the layouts. It’s a whole new dimension.”   

By the week of May 17, the homes took on a different look, thanks to different situations playing out, like holes in the roof.

Phillips said the department last had a home donated about five years ago, near 22 Mile and Card roads.

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