Firefighters Get Opportunity to Train in Building Set for Demo

Mutual aid training by Seven Lakes and West End Fire and Rescue Squads was held July 11. Photo by Tim Bouchelle


Insider Editor

Amid all the disruption created to make way for a wider artery through Seven Lakes, there has been little upside. But the clearing and grubbing phase of the N.C. 211 widening recently yielded a unique opportunity for local firefighters.

On July 11, the Seven Lakes and West End Fire and Rescue squads joined for a mutual aid training session at a two-story building set to be demolished. The building at 4345 and 4347 N.C. 211 was previously occupied by the Holt Family Insurance Group and the Stites Team with Keller Williams Realty.

Slade Musick, a training captain with Seven Lakes Rescue Squad, worked appropriate channels through road construction parties D.H. Griffin and the Fred Smith Co., which granted access to the departments to use the vacant building for training.

The exercises included: forcible entry, getting through doors, walls and windows into a building that may be locked and secured; hose deployment, moving hoses from the truck through a building to attack a fire; and Vent, Enter, Search (VES), a tactic for rescuing persons believed to be in a specific location.

This kind of training usually happens at specially designed facility.

“Most of the time we can’t do a lot of destructive training where things are intentionally broken,” said Captain Tim Bouchelle, the squad’s public information and education officer.

Access to real buildings or acquired structures is challenging, since people either want to repair potential properties to continue to operate out of them, or they get demolished before firefighters can arrange to train.

Photo by Tim Bouchelle

“What made this building unique,” said Bouchelle, “is that it’s an actual building in our district that’s been here for several years that provides real live doors, real live windows, real live stairwells that are very common in everyday businesses and some residential settings.” 

Most training is conducted in cinder block buildings that can’t really be destroyed.

“There is a little different level of realness to it because you can’t breach the cinder block wall in the training building because it’s designed to stay there for burns and different things,” said Bouchelle. 

It’s a rare opportunity to use real walls and windows during training. The entire community benefits when firefighters can practice and perfect their skills and tactics in real life scenarios.

The fire and rescue squads typically train at least twice a month either in-house or within the fire district to do exterior training.

“Some businesses allow us to go up and practice stretching hose on the outside of their buildings, nondestructive stuff,” he said.

First responders also do quarterly training at the training center located in Carthage, which has a burn building and drill tower available to all the fire departments in the county through Sandhills Community College.

Seven Lakes, West End and Eagle Springs Fire and Rescue hold mutual aid training once or twice a quarter, since they are all relatively close to each other. And every summer West End and Seven Lakes join in a water rescue training. 

“The benefit is when we all show up together on a scene, which is typical when you have a house fire or a severe accident, training together allows members of each department to become familiar with one another and work together,” said Bouchelle. They grow comfortable working together which is important when crews become mixed on scene. “Even though you’re from a different department you’re still there to do the same job.”

About 20 firefighters worked together on their assigned tasks in the former real estate and insurance offices.

“It was very eye opening for some of the newer members of each department,” said Bouchelle. “We had a vehicle accident that morning and it showed how training together can really pay off when it comes to working together on scenes and it allowed firefighters to get training from different officers from both departments.”
According to Bouchelle, the departments are seeking other buildings scheduled for demolition along the N.C. 211 corridor that they could use for training.

Contact Maggie Beamguard at