This week, the sound of explosions and smoke alarms were heard on the 1100 block of Fruitdale Drive, thanks to Grants Pass SWAT team members and Grants Pass Fire Rescue personnel taking advantage of a rare opportunity to train on a residential structure that is to be demolished.
On Wednesday, SWAT personnel with Grants Pass Police conducted their first-ever explosive breach training exercise in Grants Pass. Such tactics are used in high-risk situations, such as hostage crisis entries, according to Grants Pass Police Sergeant Josh Nieminen.
“This is the first time we’ve brought explosive breach and training here with our team, and we’re working with Medford (Police) to share resources and work together, much like we did with the large-scale Ben Foster Incident,” Nieminen said.
The house was to be demolished due to structural issues, and the homeowner offered it to Grants Pass Police, and Grants Pass Fire Rescue, for training. “When that happens, which is very rare in the City, we get first crack, if somebody lets us, and we’ll come break doors, windows, and get great training opportunities which we wouldn’t normally get,” Nieminen said.
The training was led by Officer Sal Garcia of the Medford Police Department, who set charges on various doors and walls.
Earlier this year, multiple law enforcement agencies responded to the incident where Ben Foster, a suspect in a brutal beating of a woman, had barricaded himself underneath a house. Nieminen said the Foster incident demonstrated the need to work more closely with other local SWAT teams from Jackson County Sheriff, Medford Police, and OSP, and the training this week with Medford was the first step in that process.
On Thursday, Grants Pass Fire Rescue personnel used the same house to conduct search training, filling the house with smoke to simulate a fire, then searching for dummy victims.
“Every house in the city is going to have a slightly different floorplan, so when we can get in these houses and see a different floorplan, that’s a really good opportunity for us to train the tactic of search,” said Lieutenant Josh Ward with Grants Pass Fire Rescue.
During this training, one crew took several dummies and placed them in the house, and a different crew entered and tried to locate them.
“They’ll place them in the structure, and it’s kind of a game of hide and go seek almost. They’ll place the victims in, and we’ll go in and find them in a smokey condition. We have fake smoke that we can pump into the building so we can, as best we can, simulate a fire situation,” Ward said.
After the training, Ward and others debriefed and discussed what went well and what didn’t. “It’s all just so we can get repetitions and learn to get better for the future,” Ward said.