Topeka Fire Department trains using condemned houses

Houses to be torn down for Polk Quincy project
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 4:20 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka firefighters gained real-world experience without real-world risk.

“Today we’re doing truck skills, a lot more tool oriented stuff, opening up walls, looking for extension fire in walls, forcing doors open to rescue folks, our citizens,” said Topeka Fire Division Chief Chuck Gatewood.

More experienced firefighters are training newer leadership to see things done in a way they may not have considered.

“It’s really a good learning tool,” said Ridder, a firefighter with TFD. “I mean, when you can take somebody that’s been on this job for 15 or 20 years and he’s talking to you about the way they do certain things, how to maybe even take a tool that you may have been using one certain way, but you see a guy that’s been doing this for 20 years and how efficient he is with it or maybe something he does different, that’s the knowledge that hopefully you can take back to your station and hopefully train the other men and women that are on the Topeka Fire Department.”

The condemned properties have been earmarked for demolition as part of the Polk Quincy Viaduct project. Division Chief Chuck Gatewood says it is rare for them to get the chance to practice like this.

“Everybody has worked together to get us access to these properties that they’re going to be tearing down for the highway and we have been fortunate enough to be allowed in them,” said Gatewood, “getting hands-on firefighter training, skills and development for our officers that are moving up to the rank of lieutenant to prepare better for the job along with the inside lecture of leadership. We’ve hit leadership and ownership really really big this week.”

The on-site training also goes a lot farther than the pages of a manual.

“It’s real-world experience and training that they love,” said Gatewood. “There is only so much we can learn from reading our books. We’ve got all kinds of literature to read and we love that, we get a lot from it, but there is only so much you can get by listening to people lecture about things. With this hands-on opportunity and seeing how it actually operates they truly get a perspective that they’ve wanted for a long time.”

The fire department is working with two condemned houses and although there have been plenty of requests from firefighters, the houses will not be set on fire for the training.