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      Search and rescue, but not a real fire

      The Marquette Fire Department had a rare training opportunity Wednesday. A group of firefighters smoked out an empty Marquette residence to practice search and rescue in a safe environment.

      There's no fire here, but firefighters say it's an extremely valuable exercise. Adjacent Blackrocks Brewery owners plan to demolish this empty Michigan Street house, but first offered it to the Marquette Fire Department who jumped at the chance.

      "The more we do this, the more it gets engrained in us, and on an actual incident scene, it's like second nature," said firefighter Mike Vallin who joined the department only about four months ago. This is Vallin's first training exercise of this kind.

      The firefighters perform multiple drills for different parts of the house. Of all the things learned, they say practicing teamwork is most important.

      "The best training is when you can perform all those given tasks as a team and connect all the dots up and get an overall positive operation," said Marquette Fire Chief Tom Belt.

      It's a simulated fire with only smoke and no heat or flames, but it's no cake walk.

      "Not much visibility at all. Lot of smoke, a lot of feeling, banging into walls and chairs," said firefighter Kris Shirtz.

      The team first walks through the house, gauging the dangers of this wooden structure. When the smoke is thick, they go in to find the fire source and rescue a fake victim.

      "I thought it went pretty good. I can't wait to go back in," Shirts added with a smile.

      After the smoke clears the team discusses what areas need improvement.