As the old adage says, practice makes perfect. And that applies to a number of different people, including emergency responders.

Firefighters never known when they’ll be called in an emergency, so refining the skills needed in order to safely put out a fire is an important aspect to their training.

The Le Sueur Fire Department filed for burn permits to set two vacant homes on the 600 block of Second Street ablaze for a controlled burn practice. The process started three months ago with a permit sent to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The fire department then had to ensure any asbestos was removed from the structure and clear out the homes so there was nothing left inside. And on the morning of Sept. 7, the two homes were ignited with a few straw bails.

“The big thing is you don’t have as many structure fires as you used to in the old days, so it’s nice to get into these structured fires,” Le Sueur Fire Chief Tom Obele said of the practice.

Seven instructors were on hand to help guide the fire fighters through the burning homes. What the instructors point out to the firemen is how the fire is burning, how it moves from the floors to ceilings and through doorways. They also want to be aware of the burn patterns and what kind of smoke the fire is emitting.

The other practice the firemen work on is trying to control the amount of water they’re using.

“There’s a whole mess of things you’re looking at,” Obele said. “A big factor is that when you go into a real house fire, the fire department can do a lot of water damage. What we try to do is watch the use of the water and show how little water it takes to put out a big fire.”

The controlled burns are a great teaching point for young firemen to get the simulated real-life scenario and serve as a requirement to become a full-fledged fireman. The Le Sueur Fire Department may average three or four structure fires each year, so that doesn’t provide many opportunities for the younger firefighters to get a first-hand look at a fire before facing the real thing. But the veterans also benefit from the controlled burns.

“We put crews together and we try to rotate those crews around so everybody is working with everybody else,” Obele said. “And it’s nice for us old bucks to get in, too. That’s the main thing – training, learning and safety – and this serves as a good reminder for our training. The reason you train all the time is so when you are in an emergency situation, you’re ready to go. It just comes natural.”

Reach reporter CJ Siewert at 507-931-8576 or follow him on

Reach reporter CJ Siewert at 507-931-8576 or follow him on @LNHcj

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