“It gets hot in there,” exclaimed one Liberty Township firefighter through his oxygen mask to Fire Chief Tom O’Brien as he exited a training fire in June on Liberty Road.
But before the first bail of straw is lit to get the training rolling, there are hours of preparation put into the donated structures to make them a reasonably safe training environment and as environmentally friendly as possible.
Liberty Township Firefighter Jason Miller said it took 20-plus hours of preparation time to make the two-story house with a cathedral ceiling in the living room ready for the June 26 burn.
“We had to patch holes, remove the heating and air conditioning, and knock out all the windows and cover them with plywood,” Miller said. “It took six guys to do all of that.”
Miller has had previous experience in prepping a structure for a training burn.
“This is the second one that I have done,” he said. “It’s the most realistic training we can get.”
Miller said there is training conducted all the time at the fire station, “but it’s not like a real structure fire.”
According to O’Brien, before burning the house, which was donated by Rockford Homes, five different departments were able to participate in rescue training. He said it’s good to bring in the other departments because the different departments in the county assist each other when needed.
“It’s good for the guys to train with each other,” he said.
O’Brien added local fire departments weren’t the only ones that were able to get in on the training. He said the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was able to get in some training also.
Before a burn can take place, fire departments must comply with Ohio EPA standards and obtain all the necessary permits.
Last year about this time, Liberty Township was one of the local departments able to train with the Delaware City Fire Department when it was given several former homes across from Kroger and Walmart off of U.S. Route 23 for live training burns.
Currently, infrastructure is being installed for a new shopping center and residential area that is to be built on the property.
At that time, Capt. Jim Oberle said, there are a great many worries associated with working in the empty houses because the firefighters don’t control the fire the same way they do in a training facility. He said it takes hundreds of hours to prepare a building for a safe training fire.
“The structures weren’t designed to be burnt down,” he said. “Our training buildings are designed to be burned, these aren’t.”
Oberle said the process that fire departments go through in preparing a building for a burn is the same process as any contractor who is going to demolish a building. He said there is a lot of leg work going into the preparation before fire departments can step onto the grounds.
“We’ve got to get demolition permits. We’ve got to get the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed from the owner so we can train here,” he said. “We have to make sure insurance companies don’t have policies on any of the buildings.”
Oberle said once the burning starts, firefighters only get about three hours of burn training time out of each building.
Oberle said he and his team spent the last two weeks going through each of the buildings making sure the burn plans lined up with the building layout.
“There’s a lot of work to get a structure cleared for burning,” he said. “The inspector of the Ohio EPA has been out a few times. A lot of asbestos was found in these buildings, which had to be removed.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.