MT. VERNON, Ill. — MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) Division 47, the City of Mt. Vernon and agencies from Jefferson, Washington, Wayne and Marion counties conducted a public safety exercise on Saturday.
The objective of "Operation Water Buffalo" was to test agencies’ ability to fight a major fire together when their primary source of water is restricted.
Though many see the snow and ice as an inconvenience, Mt. Vernon Fire Chief Kevin Sargent said the inclement weather adds to the real-world challenges the firefighters could face.
"I know the weather’s bad," said Sargent. "But, this can happen at any time and some of our biggest fires have been in really bad weather."
The exercise simulated a large commercial structure fire, during which the city’s water had been disrupted by terrorist activity at Rend Lake.
An incident last May in which Rend Lake was unavailable for several days due to a water main break helped inspire the design of Saturday’s exercise.
Sargent said the exercise has already provided valuable lessons to different departments who normally do not work together.