High rise fire training

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Henrico firefighters stormed a smoke-filled hotel Monday evening while they tried to rescue dozens of people inside.  It was a drill, but one that prepared them if your family ever got stuck in a burning high rise.

It's not often firefighters get the opportunity to smoke out and hose down a building outside of their training facilities.  At the former Ramada Plaza West, they're working dangerous scenarios they'd encounter saving you in real life.

The alarm sounded and the smoke billowed to where you couldn't see your hand right in front of your face.

Even in a drill firefighters raced the clock and fought the elements.

"There's nothing like a high rise fire," explained Firefighter Dean Hamilton.

That's a lesson Henrico Fire is teaching inside the old hotel so firefighters don't have to learn it the hard way in real-life.  Genworth Financial is giving the department free reign of the hotel for training.

"It's very unique in the sense that no one typically offers up an eight story multi-million dollar building to train in and do pretty much anything you want to do," said Battalion Chief William Poston.

In a matter of 30 seconds conditions changed for firefighters. An entire hallway filled with smoke, which made it difficult to see where they were going.

"Truly it's like facing a dragon," Hamilton said.  "The wind's blowing in that window it would have been down the hall in no time and cooked us."

If these firefighters didn't have eight flights of hotel stairs to hike while being weighed down by crucial equipment and ending up in a smoke-filled corridor, they'd train in a drill tower, which lacks realistic traits.

"It's given our folks a lot of ability to see what that's like and that just translates to the citizens by making us more effective," Chief Poston maintained.

The training will continue through mid-March, then Genworth will tear down the building.

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