Oak Bluffs and Tisbury firefighters descended on a warehouse at the old H.N. Hinckley and Sons property Wednesday night for structure fire drill. Though it took place in Vineyard Haven, the drill was meant to simulate a mutual aid response by Tisbury to Oak Bluffs, according to Tisbury Assistant Fire Chief Joe Tierney, who commanded the scene alongside Oak Bluffs Fire Chief John Rose. Tisbury only had one company from Engine 3 (six firefighters). These firefighters were intermingled with the swarm of Oak Bluffs firefighters participating in the drill.
Tienery described the drill as “good” overall, “except it was cold.”
Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling, who wasn’t able to attend the drill, was very thankful the Sawyer Group allowed the fire departments to drill on the property.
The property, which was purchased by Larkin “Barry” Reeves in August for $2.3 million, is the site of a proposed mixed use development. No firm plans have been filed, but the idea is to bring workforce housing to Vineyard Haven, as well as some retail space. Reeves is working with Michael Sawyer, owner of the Barn, Bowl and Bistro, who is the project manager. Sawyer’s father, Robert, architect Sam Dunn, and Dunn’s son, Josh, are also part of the development team.
It was Michael Sawyer who gave the green light to emergency personnel to use the warehouse building for training.
“We appreciate the opportunity from the property owner,” Schilling said. He noted such opportunities are rare, and “pay dividends” in firefighter preparedness.
Tierney agreed. “It’s good to get into an older building. We don’t get those opportunities too much,” he said.
While the fire departments were delicate with their entries, they broke out forcible-entry tools once inside.
Tierney said axes, halligans, pipe poles, and closet poles were employed inside, and four mock victims were recovered from the building.
Outside in the lot, the Oak Bluffs rehabilitation bus was stationed for firefighters to rest and rehydrate. On two tarps spread on the asphalt, Scott air pack bottles were stockpiled. The green tarp was emblazoned with the word FULL, while the red read EMPTY.
The drill went on for over two hours.
The Martha’s Vineyard Tactical Response Team (TRT) also held a training Thursday afternoon at the same warehouse, which will be demolished soon, across from the Vineyard Harbor Hotel on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven.
The TRT is led by Edgartown Police Officer Jamie Craig. Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee and newly minted Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio were there to witness the training.
Usually during training, the TRT has actors and scenarios, but the team was given a rare opportunity to perform drills on a building that is about to be demolished.
As part of their training, the TRT broke down doors and used practice grenades. The first door was wooden, and was pried open before the TRT tossed in a practice grenade. The second door had a glass panel, and had to be broken with an axe.
The TRT generally trains about once a month. One of the most important parts of their training is how to handle situations under pressure. Craig told The Times it’s best to train under stressful situations because it prepares the officers for the real thing.
While the warehouse is scheduled for demolition on Nov. 27, Hinckley’s Hardware remains open for business.