Harrisburg fire crews perform high-rise drill

The highest building in Harrisburg has 36 floors. So think, crews may have to climb those stairs, with 70 pounds of gear on them, helping residents along the way and when they finally arrive they still have a fire to fight.

Mid-summer 1994, the 6th floors of Harrisburg’s PennDOT caught fire. It took five alarms, two hours and 250 firefighters to tame it.

Now 20 years later; “I like to do topical training rather than in the classroom. That’s how firefighters learn,” said Lt. Aldo Morelli, of the Harrisburg Fire Department.

With the help of the 1500 Condominium in Midtown, Harrisburg firefighters were given the rare chance to run high rise drills.

“If I have a fire on the 29th story and I have to transport 60-70 firemen to the floors below, how do you logistically move that many people, and equipment plus get civilians out of the building,” said Capt. Floyd Wise.

“We are not like other big cities that have a lot of man power that they can throw a lot of companies at. We only have one shot to get it right,” said Morelli.

Here they had a few extra shots, the first two scenarios involved a working fire on the 4th floor with a broken window, which at those heights can create a deadly blowtorch effect.

“In the third scenario we are going to say the state pipe is malfunctioning. Its’ not working,” explained Wise.

For the third scenario, instead of pumping water through built in pipes, arms and bags full of heavy hose had to be hauled up manually.

At the end, this may have been a drill but the sweat can’t be simulated.

“I can’t stress enough how well that went and how fast that was done,” said Morelli.

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