Cowlitz Fire truck

Before it’s torn down to make room for the new middle school/high school campus, the old Kalama Elementary School will be used for one last educational purpose: hands-on training for local first responders. 

On Monday, February 22, Cowlitz County Fire crews from Kalama, Woodland and Kelso will kick off a week-long training session at the now-vacant facility, where they’ll practice search and rescue, forcible entry, hoseline operations and other firefighting skills. Deputies from the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office will be on-site for training as well. 

Deputy Fire Chief Sammy Brown said getting the opportunity to use such a large, complex structure for training does not come along often. 

“Training at the old elementary school is a rare opportunity as we can utilize water in the building, force entry into the many different doors, and basically operate in the structure without worrying about damaging anything,” said Brown. “It also affords the opportunity to train with long hose stretches in hallways and multiple rooms, and to conduct search and rescue in rooms of many shapes and sizes.” 

This unique training was made possible by Kalama School District and Emerick Construction, who adjusted their demolition schedule to accommodate the training. 

“This was a no-brainer,” said Eric Nerison, Kalama School District Superintendent. “Our first responders have always been strong supporters of our schools, and we are thrilled to be able to return the favor by providing a site where this important public safety training can take place.”  

Brown added that this training will ultimately improve the skills of local firefighters and the overall response capabilities of the Fire District.  

“We are very appreciative of Eric (Nerison) and the school district for allowing us to utilize this building for a great training opportunity,” he said. 

Demolition of the former elementary school building is set for Monday, March 1. The new middle school/high school campus is scheduled to be complete by mid-August.