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Simulations test Stanislaus County police, firefighter skills

Fire and police agencies from throughout Stanislaus County took part in training Friday and Saturday that was a little different from previous exercises.

Rather than one major incident, or several similar incidents, crews responded to a variety of scenarios -- from a bomb scare to a wildfire to a building collapse. Police and deputies trained Friday; Saturday was dedicated to firefighters.

Stanislaus County Sheriff's Deputy Royjindar Singh said that beyond the variety in the simulated emergencies, the training was a good test of an area command, in which one commander takes control of the overall operation, sending resources where they're most needed.

Recent budget cuts have made the training even more important, Singh said.

"You might be stuck (at a large fire) with only five fire engines," he said. "You are stuck with the resources you have."

Saturday's situations included an explosion in a Salida Middle School science classroom. Twenty-one students volunteered to play the part of victims. Many of them were sprayed by fire hoses to "decontaminate" them from a substance that covered their clothes.

Miguel Preciado, 13, was among the lucky ones — or unlucky ones, depending on how you look at it. Miguel lay with two other students outside the classroom, ostensibly dead, though still a little chatty.

Despite having to give up a Saturday, Miguel said students were eager to volunteer. "It's fun," he said Saturday morning, covered in the flour-type substance that stood in for a hazardous material. "But it's a little cold."

He was happy to hear that "surviving" classmates got hosed down with water.

Other incidents Saturday included a wildfire near Shiloh School, a commercial fire at the WinCo distribution center in Ceres and a building collapse at Acme Ice House, near Modesto Junior College.

Firefighters entering the ice factory made their way through a dark building with unknown structural problems. They removed a couple of weighted dummies and rescued police Explorers, who also volunteered as victims.

The training is part of a Department of Homeland Security grant, and fulfills requirements that crew leaders get updated training each year.

More than 150 fire department and public safety personnel took part in the two-day exercise.

Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at pguerra@modbee.com or 578-2343.

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