Teachers get practical lesson in firefighting

Posted: Friday, August 24, 2007

Kelly Bishop and Pepper Pond finished their safety training at Kenai Alternative High School last week, but were in for an extra course on fire extinguisher handling when a plastic container on the kitchen stove burst into flames.

"There was smoke coming out of the oven," said Bishop, a special education aide at Kenai Alternative. "There was a container on the stove and someone had probably rested against (the counter) and turned the stove on."

Bishop and Pond, a math and science teacher at Kenai Alternative, went through district-wide safety training on Aug. 15 and school-wide safety training last Friday. Training included medical triage, search and rescue and first-time response, as well as letting employees know the location of the school's fire extinguishers and the right way to use them. Pond said when flames burst from the stove Wednesday, she and Bishop knew where the fire extinguisher was and didn't waste time using it.

"We knew exactly what to do," Pond said. "It wasn't like we had to stop and read the instructions on the fire extinguisher. We did exactly like they told us."

Pond said each employee at Kenai Alternative has his or her own responsibilities during an emergency, and it's her and Bishop's responsibility to know where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them. Because Kenai Alternative isn't a big school, Pond said there are only two fire extinguishers, one in the hallway and one in the kitchen.

"There's nothing in our classroom that's going to spontaneously combust," she said, adding that there might be a need for an extinguisher in the chemistry classes, but because students rarely work with chemicals, a fire is unlikely. "Just in a regular classroom I wouldn't see a need for one."

Putting out the fire was a team effort, Bishop said. It wasn't a big fire and didn't take very long to put out.

"Pepper and I both went through the class together," she said. "I said, 'There's a fire,' and she went and got the fire extinguisher for me and we put it out together. It was a joint effort."

Don Richards was spending a quiet evening at home last Friday around 10 when he heard a strange noise. Thinking it was a bear, he went outside to investigate and discovered the cabin across the channel from his home near the Kenai Keys had erupted in flames.

"We were about 75 feet above (Dow Island) looking across at the flames at eye level," he said. "Smoke and flames were 50 feet high in a matter of minutes. The whole thing burnt to the ground and was over with in about an hour."

Richards said the fire caused several big explosions, but couldn't say where they came from. He called the fire department, which arrived on the scene with boats and seven firefighters in less than 10 minutes to battle the blaze from the river.

Sam Evanoff, assistant fire marshall for Central Emergency Services, said the structure was completely in flames when two boats responded from Sterling and Soldotna. Each boat floated to either side of the structure, dousing it with water and preventing flames from spreading to nearby trees and other houses.

"One boat is capable of pumping water from the Kenai River," Evanoff said. Recent damp weather made it easy for firefighters to get the upper hand on the blaze. They were able to keep the flames out of the trees and close to the ground.

"There were no injuries, but the cabin was a complete loss. One of our main concerns was the fire spreading to the woods," he said.

The fire started in a wood stove, but firefighters have yet to determine a cause. Evanoff said the owner of the cabin stocked up a wood stove, went outside to go fishing, heard a "woof" and the next thing he knew, the interior of his cabin had caught fire.

With all the dead trees on the island, more than one cabin could have been lost to the fire, Richards said.

"It was pretty scary. If it hadn't rained, the entire area would definitely have gone up in flames," he said. "There are a lot of new houses on the island, there's a brand new one being built right next to (the cabin). (The fire department) was very quick to respond and did an excellent job."

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at jessica.cejnar@peninsulaclarion.com.

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