|Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
|Jackson Township firefighters prepare to enter an abandoned house on Holton Road as part of a fire training exercise on Sept. 14. The event culminated weeks of preparation and was conducted in a building now owned by the township.
An abandoned homestead on Holton Road – once the site of family picnics, holiday gatherings, and birthday celebrations – ended its days in flames with a training exercise by Jackson Township firefighters.
The Southwest department set the house on fire multiple times on Sept. 14 to conduct simulated burns involving different areas of the dwelling, which was located on land now owned by the township and the future site of a new fire station. A hole was cut into the roof, windows boarded up, doors removed, and a yellow "Fire Line Do Not Cross" tape stretched from tree to tree in front of the house as hoses snaked across the lawn.
From the basement to the roof, smoke poured from the structure throughout the day as trainers used straw bales and wooden pallets to ignite fires.
"In the old days, we used things like gasoline and charcoal lighter fluid to set the fires," said Fire Chief Lloyd Sheets prior to the start of the day-long training session. "We now follow the NFPA standards for training fires and no longer use fuels, just pallets and straw."
He added, "The captain started the whole process six to eight weeks ago. We had to get an EPA permit and have the house checked for asbestos before we could do anything. Then we had to go inside and take everything out. We start off with smoky conditions with search and rescue and then progress to small fires, followed by larger ones and the whole thing is treated like a real fire run, including a command post."
Sheets said the department has many new and young firefighter/paramedics and the live-burn session afforded them the opportunity to train alongside their more-experienced counterparts.
"We normally don’t encounter basement fires like this," continued the chief, "so this is a chance to train in a safe situation. It’s pretty scary to look down a staircase with heat and smoke coming up at you. We conduct training like this every year, and this year we’ll end up with two exterior and two full training fires."