By Brandi Makuski
Six local fire departments came together on Saturday for a day-long exercise they rarely get to experience: A residential training burn.
The controlled house burning at 5498 Golla Rd. in the town of Hull on Feb. 18 brought together crews from Hull, Stevens Point, Plover, Stockton, Dewey, and Almond. While all of the firefighters on the scene were professionals, about half have not yet had to respond to a structure fire.
Hull Fire Chief Ken Sadogierski said the house was donated by a local family for the purposes of training. Over the past 18 months or so, local law enforcement and firefighters have used the house for a range of training scenarios.
The training burn was the last exercise on the property, before it’s turned back over to the owners, Sadogierski said.
Training burns are rare for two main reasons, according to Stockton Fire Chief Jeremy Spencer.
“First, we don’t have a lot of homes that are donated for a purpose like this,” Spencer said. “And second, there are so many requirements now, so it’s harder for us to do something like this.”
Spencer said under changes at the state level, a specific number of certified instructors are required based on the number of firefighters present. Certified instructors are the only people allowed to perform certain duties during a training burn, including igniting any fires inside the structure.
“That makes it hard for a lot of us to get together, with scheduling,” he said. “But when we do, we really work it, we train the heck out of our people. So it’s well worth it.”
Nicholas Proulx, assistant fire chief in Hull, said small teams of five rotated through various fire-related exercises inside the home. Upon completion, each smaller fire would be completed extinguished, then reignited for the next crew. Once teams circulated through each exercise, the house was lit as nearby trees were soaked by water hoses to prevent an uncontrolled burn.
The Almond Fire Department brought its air trailer to maintain firefighters’ SCBAs (self-contained breathing apparatus) during the training. A “rehab” team also kept track of firefighters’ vitals throughout the exercise.
Proulx said a rapid intervention team was on standby the entire day as an extra measure of safety.
Chief Jb Moody from Stevens Point provided a large piece of the training, working with lesser experienced firefighters on safely breaking through windows and doors, roof ventilation, and other fire tactics.
“You can learn a lot about what’s going on inside the house without even going inside if you can learn to read the smoke,” Moody told one group of firefighters.
Once the house becomes engulfed, Moody said, there’s little for most of the firefighters to do except watch and learn learn how fire behaves. It’s why many firefighters pulled out their own cell phones to capture the blaze.
Proulx said lunch and bottled water was donated by Kwik Trip and Team Schierl. Hay bales and pallets were donated by a local farmer, Pixelle, and American Building Supply.
Hull plans another training burn later this year, he said.