Events like the recent fire in downtown Denison can provide valuable experience to firefighters and help prevent future disasters in urban areas, Sherman Fire-Rescue officials said this week. Officials with the department said urbanized fires in tight areas like downtown Sherman and Denison are infrequent and firefighters often need to use different tactics in combating them.
Sherman Fire-Rescue Chief Danny Jones said the fire in Denison gave his firefighters the opportunity to work on a type of fire that they had not had much practice on, and it allowed them to refresh themselves on training and skills.
“I would say they are kinda rare, it has been at least dating back to 1990, and probably some time before that, since we’ve had a downtown fire,” Sherman Fire-Rescue Chief Danny Jones said.
Since it has been nearly 30 years since Jones has seen a fire in downtown Sherman, while it was unfortunate for Denison, it gave the crew opportunity to better prepare itself and practice. While there have been some minor fires, including one at the Royal Case warehouse on the outskirts of downtown in 2015, none have occurred in close quarters like the Denison fire.
The Denison Fire Department received a call of a fire at a nail salon at 317 Main Street just after 10 a.m. on Oct. 9. The fire was largely extinguished nearly 12 hours later after completely destroying the building, a neighboring building and significantly damaging a third. The blaze required the assistance of many neighboring fire departments, including Sherman-Fire Rescue.
Urban fires, with many structures touching each other, bring their own challenges. Due to the enclose nature, firefighters may be limited in what angles they can approach the fire from unless they enter into the building, Jones said. Other neighboring structures can be at a heightened risk.
Some structures have been built with firewalls between neighboring units, but over the years some of these preventative measures can be weakened, Jones said. In some cases, the firewall has been damaged or cut through to give cross access to multiple units. Others can be weakened through running cable, Jones said as an example.
There are some techniques, however, that can help in these types of fires, he said. One involves cutting a hole in an area where these fires will typically burn up and then outward to give more access and another point to fight the fire from.
Following the fire in Denison, Jones said he hasn’t had an increasing concern about a downtown fire in his own city, and he views the threat as equal to any other part of Sherman.
“Any buildings that are close together can cause a concern, but tall weeds and wings can also cause a fire,” Jones said. “There is nothing specific here that concerns us and says something will burn down,” he said.
However, with their infrequency and difference from the traditional residential fire, Jones said it is important for the department to keep skills fresh in the event a fire may occur closer to home.