Real fire interrupts fake fire

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Fire Department used the former Macy's building off of Stadium Blvd. on Thursday to train its firefighters.

In the middle of the training firefighters were alerted to a "real-life" fire happening directly behind the Macy's.

“We tell our crews if there is a real life emergency we say, 'Real-life, real-life, real-life,'” said Assistant Fire Chief Jerry Jenkins.

Just more than 100 yards and up a hill out the back door of the Macy's, CFD found a tire lit on fire.

One unit was dispatched and two firefighters were able to take care of the freak coincidence in a few minutes. The fire did not cause any serious damage and how it started is still unkown.

Jenkins said this kept the firefighters on their toes and helps keep the training serious and real.

“When we're training we make it real life, we train on the basic fundamentals,” he said.

Once the situation was taken care of CFD got back to what it was there to do in the first place.

Firefighters filled the former Macy's with water vapor smoke to simulate the zero visibility of a real fire.

CFD does not always get this kind of facility to practice in, so it is important for them to take advantage when they have it.

"Whenever we do have the opportunity, it is important to seize the opportunity and do as much training and practice on it as we can," said firefighter Cameron Mackey.

CFD conducted training for primary search techniques in large structures and Rapid Intervention Crew, or RIC, training. 

The Rapid Intervention Crew is used when their is a firefighter down and CFD needs to locate them.

The RICs have gotten new technology called pack trackers over the past year that helps them do their job.

The pack tracker can locate a lost firefighter using a tracker on their air pack.

"The pack tracker is a very, very useful and important tool because it tells us where someone is going to be as opposed to going in blind," said Mackey.

“With the pack tracker it helps us find their location which saves a lot of time and probably saves firefighters lives across the country,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins said they practice hard so they are familiar with the gear and can be perfect when they're at a real life situation.

That’s why we take training seriously and that’s why every day is a training day for us.”