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Soon-to-be-demolished school makes the perfect site for Lake Oswego firefighters to practice their skills

REVIEW PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Lake Oswego firefighters practice putting out fires in a classroom of the old Bryant Elementary School building.REVIEW PHOTOS: JONATHAN HOUSE - LOFD firefighters practice putting out fires outside of the old Bryant Elementary School building.Bryant Elementary is just an empty shell now — hollowed out and run down, a once-beloved school that is scheduled to be demolished in the coming weeks to make room for a new Lakeridge Junior High.

But as construction crews continued their final preparations last week, Lake Oswego firefighters discovered that the beloved primary school on Jean Road still had a few lessons to share.

During three consecutive days of training, the LOFD staged a variety of commercial fire scenarios at Bryant, deploying ladder trucks to cut open ventilation holes in the roof, breaching walls of various materials and thicknesses and practicing their fire-suppression techniques using high-powered hoses.

"We've not only enhanced the opportunity for our department to be successful in extinguishing a fire," said LOFD Training Officer Scott Wachter, "but we're also going more in depth on saving our own in the event we have downed firefighter."

REVIEW PHOTOS: JONATHAN HOUSE - LOFD firefighters practice rescue techniques by scaling the roof of the old Bryant Elementary School building.In its current state, Bryant Elementary felt more like set for AMC's "The Walking Dead" than a former school last week, but the stripped-down version of the building proved perfect for firefighters. There were no open flames, but there was plenty of smoke at times as crews from Fire Truck 211 and Engine 212 worked through a variety of scenarios, including Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) training to search for and assist downed firefighters.

REVIEW PHOTOS: JONATHAN HOUSE - LOFD firefighter Andrew Fox (center) goes over rescue techniques during training at the old Bryant Elementary School building.While a three-man crew from Engine 212 practiced hose deployment in several different areas of the building, the Truck 211 crew raised their ladder and headed up to the roof of the indoor and outdoor gyms, where they practiced using saws to cut open holes that would hypothetically allow smoke to escape and give firefighters below an easier path to rescue trapped victims.

Although they were only working at three-quarter speed, the need to adapt to rapidly changing conditions was on full display.

"Everyone has had a good attitude this week," Cantin said. "They had a lot of stuff thrown at them in a short amount of time."

According to Wachter, working through commercial fire scenarios is drastically different than residential situations because there are more components and safety considerations to consider. That makes the opportunity to deploy firefighters for training exercises immensely helpful.

Besides, Wachter said, "crews enjoy going out and getting their hands on the saws, the hoses, doing wall breachings and honing those manipulative skills."

Firefighters will get another chance to practice those skills in the coming weeks, when they descend on the soon-to-be-demolished Providence Mercantile Center. But the truth, Cantin said, is that it's an opportunity the LOFD doesn't get all too often.

"We don't get to practice on commercial buildings too much, so this allows us to run through some scenarios we don't usually get to see," he told The Review. "It's cool the contractor let us come in here to train."

For construction project manager Paul Eskeldson, it was a no-brainer.

"I'm looking forward," he said in the days leading up to the exercises, "to the Bryant buildings providing one final service to the Lake Oswego community through this training opportunity."

Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Sam Stites at 503-479-2375 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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