Roanoke firefighters use old school building set for demolition as hands-on training tool

Published: Feb. 13, 2020 at 4:23 PM EST
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Before the old Fallon Park Elementary School is demolished, Roanoke firefighters are using the building for hands-on training: breaching doors, breaking down walls and cutting through structures.

“We learn what it takes to break through a cinder block wall, what it takes to cut through a commercial roof with multi-layers of different materials that we don’t get our hands on every day," said Roanoke Fire Captain Jeff Peay.

Over the past two weeks, nearly 180 of the department’s 250 firefighters – everyone from new recruits to seasoned veterans – have been putting their skills to the test.

“It’s priceless," said Peay. "It’s priceless, the experience we get here. We don’t want to learn during an actual fire; we want to learn in training, that way when we get a fire, our guys are proficient, efficient in what they do and it’s safe.”

This unique training was made possible thanks to Roanoke City Schools donating the old school building prior to its demolition.

“Firefighting’s a dangerous job, so we have to simulate a lot of the training that we do," said Roanoke Fire Captain Rhett Fleitz. "Any time we can do this where we actually force real doors, actually go through walls, actually cut the roof, is as close to real world as we’re going to get in a controlled environment because the building’s not on fire right now.”

As for this school building, it is set for demolition Monday, February 17 to make way for new construction on phase three of the Fallon Park reconstruction project.

That is set for completion in time for the beginning of next school year.

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