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Firefighters Train Before Demolition
Firefighters use a special saw to cut through a portion of the roof on the East F Street McDonalds on Saturday morning, part of a series of training exercises at the site. Marg Jackson/The Leader


Motorists trying to turn in to the East F Street McDonald’s in Oakdale to get their French fry or Big Mac fix will have to wait a while to place that order.

A fence erected around the fast food eatery during the past week prompted calls and some concern from local residents, seeking answers as to why the Golden Arches had shut down. Officials said the project is two-fold, with severe drainage problems to be addressed in the parking lot and the old restaurant demolished to allow for construction of a newer, larger, more modern one.

While the chain link fence and somewhat abrupt closure took some by surprise, local firefighters were counting their blessings as they had a chance for several days of intense training, inside and outside, as well as on top of the structure.

Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District Training Officer Tim Johnson was on scene with a crew of firefighters on Saturday, on the roof to practice ventilation techniques, as well as using different tools for cutting and gaining access.

“We have eight stations (in the consolidated district) and our goal is to get as many guys through this training as possible,” Johnson said.

He noted the cooperation and generosity of both the McDonald’s corporate office and the local franchisee in allowing them to use the building for training purposes.

They began on Friday, Jan. 16 when they did interior attacks and simulated fire suppression efforts, while Saturday started on top of the building, cutting through portions of the roof and learning about the structure of the facility. Sunday, Johnson hoped to rotate in as many teams as possible before the restaurant was due for demolition on Monday, Jan. 19.

Johnson said among the stations in the Consolidated District sending crews were Empire, Waterford, Oakdale City and Oakdale Rural.

“We were able to do all kinds of stuff, roof operations, ventilation holes, trench cutting,” Johnson said. “We spent time advancing hose lines inside the building.”

Johnson added that it’s very rare for fire departments to have access to what is a “perfectly good building” to do training and it offered the chance to gain some valuable insight.

“It gives us an idea of how the building is built and that’s good for the future,” he said of having that knowledge if they ever do have to respond to a fire in a similar structure.

“We’re very grateful,” he said of the opportunity.

Firefighters spent about four hours on the scene Friday and Saturday, with a full eight-plus hour day in the training on Sunday.