Watt demolition offers unique Phoenix Fire Department training opportunity

A view of both Phoenix firefighters and members of Watt Development during a training effort at the site of the yet-to-be demolished office complex. (Submitted photo)

A view of both Phoenix firefighters and members of Watt Communities of Arizona during a training effort at the site of the yet-to-be demolished office complex. (Submitted photo)

Days before it demolished an old retail building to make way for View 32 — the North 32nd Street corridor’s first new urban apartment project in decades — Watt Communities of Arizona turned the space over to Phoenix firefighters for a rare opportunity to kick, drag and drill through interiors as part of real-time emergency exercises.

“Firefighters don’t typically get to conduct training in actual buildings, so this was unique,” said Steve Pritulsky, president and CEO of Watt Communities of Arizona, in a press release.

“We were thrilled to offer up our property, and we want to spread the word to other building owners. This is a simple way to make a tremendous contribution to our firefighters.”

Located just north of the of 32nd Street and Shea Boulevard in north Phoenix, the vacant building was constructed in the mid 1980s as an office/retail center, according to the release.

It was most recently occupied by six retail tenants who gradually vacated the property in preparation for its demolition and the construction of View 32, a 135-unit upscale, for-rent urban apartment complexm, the release states.

“This building was perfect, because while it was empty, all of the interiors and infrastructure were still in place — doors, walls, wiring and ventilation,” said Phoenix Fire Department Battalion Chief Mark Huff.

“It gave us a realistic setting with an important benefit: we could break down walls, conduct a roof attack that coordinated our Engines and Ladder companies, and complete other exercises that firefighters have to execute regularly on actual emergency calls.”

According to Cheif Huff, Watt’s donation of this single building allowed the department to conduct real-time training for approximately 120 recruits and 50 active firefighters.

In addition to learning about different aspects of building construction, these groups completed exercises such as “roof attacks,” in which they enter a building by cutting holes in the roof, and the Tarver drill, which teaches survival and extrication skills for firefighters lost in a fire.

The Tarver drill was named after Bret Tarver, a Phoenix firefighter who died in 2001 at the age of 41, when he was lost in a fire at shopping center at 35th Street and McDowell Road.

“We learned a lot from that tragedy and have implemented training around it that we now provide to every person that comes through our program,” said Chief Huff.

“This building allowed us to conduct the Tarver drill and many others in real space. It takes the skills we teach at our academy – which is made of concrete construction – and elevates them to a new, potentially lifesaving level.”

The department also used the 32nd Street building exercises as an opportunity to shoot a training video, which it is in the process of completing now. According to Chief Huff, the department has had 10 or less opportunities like this in the last two to three years, but they are always seeking more.

“It is a constant need that we don’t get fulfilled often enough,” he said.

The complex is Watt’s second urban infill residential project within the city of Phoenix’s North 32nd Street revitalization corridor, and part of more than $73 million in Watt residential developments being built in submarkets including Tempe, the Camelback Corridor, north Central and downtown Phoenix.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.