Fresno firefighters train for earthquake search-and-rescue operations

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- An old parking structure that once belonged to the IRS will now be ground zero for earthquake search-and-rescue training in Downtown Fresno.

The former IRS building and parking structure on G Street near El Dorado is in the process of being demolished to make way for high speed rail.

Earthquakes are common in California but simulating the aftermath of an earthquake is not. But that's what the Fresno Fire Department has here, and this will allow several fire departments to train for search-and-rescue operations in anticipation of the next big earthquake in California.

Monday morning, construction crews began demolition work on the parking structure that once belonged to the IRS. The site, now owned by the High Speed Rail Authority, sits in the middle of the path the bullet train will take through Downtown Fresno.

Instead of leveling the parking structure to the ground, construction crews set up a unique and free opportunity for the Fresno firefighters.

"They see it as a chance to do some training whether it is for search warrants, whether it is for Fresno Fire that wants to do any kind of burns or any search-and-rescue activities," Toni Tinoco with HSR said. "So we work with them."

The High Speed Rail Authority worked with the Fresno Fire Department and local construction crews to create a collapsed structure after a major earthquake.

It's similar to what happened in the 1989 Loma Prieta and 1994 Northridge quakes.

Todd Tuggle is the deputy chief in charge of training for Fresno Fire. He's working with 29 members and five local fire departments for training that will take place here on Friday.

"They are specialized in various rescue operations including search, rescue, concrete cutting and various skill sets that are needed in these types of collapsed scenarios," he explained.

Tuggle says firefighters will be trained off duty and service will not be distributed. Before demolition work began, several cars were placed throughout the structure with dummies inside.

"So that way, when we demolished it, the vehicles were are already there, and we prepositioned mannequins inside the vehicles as well," he said. "So we have true to life rescue props to work with."

Training will begin Friday evening and will go into the overnight hours. The site will be completely demolished and cleared out by the end of August.
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