They had every reason to believe bullets were flying through the air, but for first responders, it felt like an eternity before they could get inside Clackamas Town Center.
Clackamas Fire District One was the first crew on the scene. At the time, paramedics didn't know if there was more than one shooter.
What they did know - there were thousands of holiday shoppers in the mall and getting them out safe meant organizing chaos.
It was the exact scenario those firefighters had trained for.
The firefighters with Heavy Squad 5 went straight to the food court.
"We train for that," said Lt. Michael Carlsen, Hazardous Materials and Weapons of Mass Destruction training coordinator.
Carlsen refers to the mall as a "target hazard" since as many as 30,000 people could be shopping there at peak shopping times. Around 3 p.m. Tuesday police estimate there were 10,000 inside.
"It's surreal," Carlsen said. "You almost wonder if it's a drill and you almost have to ask yourself: ‘is this the real world?'"
The responders went by the textbook, setting up a blue triage tent near the movie theater. The tent is equipped to treat up to 50 patients at one time. Several Trimet buses sat waiting to transport more patients than an ambulance could hold.
"We are good at making sense out of chaos so we prepare for the worst and hope for the best," Carlsen said.
Thursday the men who drove those first fire trucks were taking a much deserved break.
The training was paid for by the Federal Government after Sept. 11. The firefighters at District One train for active shooters, hazardous materials and weapons of mass destruction.
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