WASECA — A structure dubbed a community “eyesore” was used Tuesday evening by the Waseca Fire Department for training in a controlled burn of a house on Tuesday, August 13.
The American Legion, which owned the house, asked the department to burn it down.
“The neat thing about the training is it gives younger firefighters an opportunity in a controlled environment to go into a structure fire knowing what’s in there,” Waseca Fire Department Chief John Underwood said. “We go to somebody’s house, could be two in the morning, there could be people involved, we don’t have any idea of the layout of the house, the furniture that’s in there, that’s so different than this here. They’ll have a chance to sit in a room and watch the fire grow and when it gets so big they’ll put it out and they’ll learn ventilation techniques and a lot of pump operations tonight using our ladder truck, so it’s just wonderful for everybody.”
The fire department spent about two months planning the controlled burn of the house. Planning included receiving permits and attending Waseca City Council for the go-ahead.
There was also collaboration with the Waseca Police Department that had to be worked out for the day of the burn. There were two additional police officers on duty during the controlled burn. They were on duty to give support in ways like controlling traffic and bystanders if needed.
Set-up for the day of the burn was much less time-consuming with some prep work being done on the Sunday before. There were holes put in the attic to help ventilate the fire and to control how the fire burns during the final fire to take the house down.
“It is hard, strenuous, but the hardest part is when we get done, all the clean up we got,” Underwood said. “Everything from engines... to the hose has to be washed, all the turnout gear has to be decontaminated and that gets to be quite a bit.”
The American Legion asked the fire department to burn the house down because it was seen as an “eyesore” in the area and the burn is also seen as a way to clean up the area.
“It’s been an eyesore for a long time,” bystander Cora Huebsch said.
On Aug. 13 the American Legion was closed the entire day for safety concerns. Across the street from the house and the American Legion many groups of spectators awaited the highly anticipated controlled burn.
With the house and the detached garage gone, there is room for more opportunities for the American Legion in the future.
“...We need that (controlled burn training) because that’s really the only chance they get to go in and practice something because they’ll light it and put it out and when it gets to the point they’ll let it burn it down,” American Legion Historian Larry Huebsch said… “Right now they’ve got their oxygen masks and the tanks and the whole face-masks on and I mean they look like their really loaded down but it’s really all for a purpose.”
The Waseca Fire Department has 30 members and 26 were on site training at the controlled burn.
There were four groups of members who got the chance to go into the controlled burn environment. The five or six instructors who were on site would go into the house and start a fire in designated areas, such as the kitchen, living room or bedroom, using straw and pallets to start the fires before exiting.
The firefighters waited outside of the house while the fire grows and smoke grows and until the heat gets hot before they would enter as a small group to put the fire out. Once in the smoke will come down and they lose their visibility.
In order to get visibility back they ventilate the room using hydraulic ventilation by busting out a window in the room using water pressure, once that happens it becomes like a wind turbine and sucks the air outside from behind the firefighters who are training. Before they ventilate the room they will spray the ceiling to create steam that will put out the fire.
“I think that’s an excellent idea, it’s good experience for the firefighters and to check their equipment to make sure it all works the way it supposed to work,” bystander Bob Cervenka said. “It’s an excellent unit to work on and it gets rid of it for the legion, it’s a win-win for everybody.”
During the training bystanders could hear the crackling of the fire and the breaking of class when the windows would burst from the heat.
The wind created a challenge during the training because some of the embers from the fire were traveling across U.S. Highway 13. Firefighters were able to follow the embers to make sure there were no issues arising.
“Everything went well,” Underwood said.
Reach Reporter Bailey Grubish at 507-837-5451 or follow her on Twitter @wcnbailey.