Chesapeake firefighters train at empty Sentara building

Firefighters in Chesapeake at an old Sentara nursing home Nov. 2, 2017 for training. (Credit: WAVY/Erin Kelly).

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Firefighters in Chesapeake have been using an old Sentara Nursing Center as a training ground this week.

Sentara offered the building as a training site, since it is due to be demolished at the end of the year. The 45-year-old building was replaced by a new rehab and care center.

The firefighters were training with their new packs that are being rolled out later this year. The new packs have thermal imaging cameras and hose connections so firefighters can share air from their tanks.

The simulation is meant to look just like a real world fire, including non-toxic smoke filling the building. Just like in the real world, the firefighters headed for the unfamiliar, smoky building.

According to Captain Lawrence Matthews with the Chesapeake Fire Department, most of the firefighters hadn’t seen all of the structure before the training.

“There’s a simulated structural collapse and the crews are going to have to find an alternative means of egress out, and really what they’re going to have to do is go back to their basic firefighter training and remembering how to do those searches on walls,” said Matthews.

Forcible entry techniques, finding an escape route and sharing air with each other in a dark, smoky room were some of the training practices they accomplished.

More than 400 firefighters will complete the same training.

“It reinforces all the skills that they’ve been taught through a career and you can never train too much for a job that can kill you,” said Matthews.