Major Fire Drill in Downtown South Haven Preps Firefighters for Disaster

To the casual passerby unaware of the city's plans yesterday, it might have looked like much of downtown South Haven was afire. Reality is it was just a drill. It was only a drill.

Seven fire departments joined together yesterday, Palm Sunday, April 14th, for the drill which was designed to determine how a major fire in downtown South Haven would be attacked on multiple fronts. Joining South Haven Area Emergency Services in the practice run were firefighters from Bangor, Covert, Ganges, Hartford, Lawrence and Lee. It was no small affair, either, as firefighters trained in the drill for a full three-hours.

The pumping of water from the city waterworks and nearby Black River reached a peak average of 4,300 gallons per minute according to officials from the South Haven Area Emergency Services team.

While residents and visitors were alerted to the fact that it was only a drill, the scope and scale of the procedure might have left some people unaware of the situation wondering what had happened or was happening as they watched from afar.

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It was the first such drill in many years, and was set up as a five-alarm training drill ranging from 7 o'clock in the morning until 11am in the heart of the city's central business district. It's been more than 40 years since a major fire struck downtown, and authorities wanted to make sure they were ready for such an emergency.

South Haven Area Emergency Services officials planned the drill so that firefighters would be best prepared to handle a large-scale fire in the downtown area, and help the emergency teams determine if calculations regarding how much water could be pumped if needed to battle a huge blaze.

The water that was pumped from hydrants and the Black River essentially flowed back into the river through the central business district's storm sewer system.

Authorities cordoned off Williams Street, Quaker and Center Street throughout the course of the lengthy drill. Firefighters were also assisted by the Van Buren County Emergency Preparedness Office in the drill.

The photo accompanying this story on Moody on the Market is courtesy of Tom Renner.