Wilson County firefighters train at a tornado-ravaged middle school

West Wilson Middle School was destroyed in March tornado
Posted at 5:31 PM, Oct 03, 2020

MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WTVF) — For the last three days, dozens of first responders in Wilson County have been training for a worst cast scenario -- what if one of their own gets stuck in a potentially deadly situation?

Members of Mt. Juliet Fire, Lebanon Fire and Wilson County EMA met up at the old West Wilson Middle School to practice different scenarios if rescue professionals end up needing rescuing.

"In your fire service career, this is probably going to be the most stressful thing you ever do," said Chris Plack, a fire rescue trainer from Kentucky who came in to help facilitate the training exercises.

Inside the condemned West Wilson Middle School building, Plack and other trainers set up several rooms with smoke machines and total darkness. The firemen and women had to navigate the confusion listening for an alarm that sounds when a firefighter is motionless.

"We always try to do everything as realistic as we can when we train," said Plack.

In addition to providing a realistic atmosphere, West Wilson provided the ability to modify or even destroy surroundings inside the storm-ravaged building.

"It’s very hard for us to come by structures, and once we do, we want to jump on the training," said Captain Brent Blamires with Mt. Juliet Fire. "Blow holes in walls and pull ceiling and break the building up a little bit is just training you just don’t get all the time."

It's been seven months since a tornado decimated West Wilson Middle School.

Part of the difficulty of rescuing a fellow firefighter is all of the added weight from the fire suit, oxygen equipment and additional equipment.

"We’re dealing with firefighters that have an extra 100 pounds of weight added on them, so there’s a struggle," said Blamires.

That's what makes this training so important.

"Rescue a firefighter when he goes down because it can happen and it does happen," said Blamires.

This may be the last time that Wilson County first responders are able to train using West Wilson Middle School. It's slated for demolition and reconstruction in the coming months.