Many pitch in during fire drill |

Many pitch in during fire drill

William Ferchland

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Firefighters conduct room searches in a smoke-filled hallway during a fire drill Tuesday morning at the Horizon Resort Casino.

Stranded on a sixth floor balcony at Horizon Casino Resort, employee Donna Koehler calmly waited as smoke wafted beneath her and two firemen inched closer for the rescue.

Playing the role of the star victim of Tuesday’s emergency drill headed by Tahoe Douglas Fire Protection District, Koehler jumped at the opportunity for the high-rise rescue when she learned the department had purchased a 104-foot ladder truck.

“It didn’t bother me because I knew I had a nice ride down,” she said. “I trust these guys.”

“I put in my order last year,” she added.

Tahoe Douglas firefighters travel to the casino corridor at Stateline often for medical aid calls. Requests for fire suppression are usually false alarms, sometimes originating from some jokester pulling an alarm.

And if there were a fire complete with heat and smoke, the building’s sprinkler system would likely douse the flames before authorities arrived.

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Glenn Koehler, director of security and Donna’s husband, doesn’t remember a notable fire in the resort in his 24 years at Horizon.

But, as they say, better safe than sorry. And along with the morning drill that invited other agencies including South Lake Tahoe, Lake Valley and Carson City fire departments, Tahoe Douglas was able to play with its new ladder truck.

“We’re just trying to do more stuff like this with our neighbors so we interact more and become more familiar with them,” said Tahoe Douglas Assistant Chief Ken Poohachoff.

There were somewhere between 40 to 45 firefighters, Poohachoff said.

The scenario was a smoker on the sixth-floor fell asleep but did not extinguish the cigarette, which ignited the mattress. The flames grew and firefighters were needed.

“We have to train for those unexpected situations, so we disabled some of those (fire suppressing) features to let the fire grow,” Poohachoff said.

Six security personal also took part in the drill to work on communication, assisting firefighters and other emergency related duties.

Poohachoff said the exercise initially had more agencies, such as CALSTAR’s helicopter ambulance, but it had to be scaled back.

The training also allowed younger firefighters the chance to train under older coworkers who are reaching retirement age.

The rear parking lot and Aspen Tower were emptied for the exercise. Thirty Horizon employees participated in the drill as victims or walking traffic as people exiting the building. Susan McDonough played Mrs. Brown, a woman trapped in room 633.

According to her index card, McDonough, who works in finance, is trapped in her room by heat and smoke and calls 911 at 9:15 a.m.

Yet the best part of the day for McDonough wasn’t acting but the casual clothes she wore.

“It’s comfortable,” she said. “No heels. Perfect.”

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