No sirens could be heard and no flashing lights were seen, but firefighters remained on the scene of a house fire for hours Monday night — one they set for training purposes.
Travelers along CC Camp Road and North Bridge Street, and perhaps farther away, may have noticed smoke rising in the air beginning around 8 p.m. and continuing late into the night from 265 Oak Grove Road, Elkin, which sits in a neighborhood behind Goodwill and McDonald’s.
A previous accidental fire occurred in the home June 30, 2014, so the heirs of the previous owner contacted the Elkin Fire Department to offer firefighters a chance to get hands-on experience in a house fire situation since the owners were going to tear it down, reported Elkin Fire Chief Mike Morton.
“Everything went well. Everybody started gathering about 6 p.m., and we finished picking up hose at 1:30 in the morning. We went out a couple of times that night to check on things and make sure it was OK,” Morton said.
Elkin had 16 of its firefighters present for the live burn training, with three or four each coming from State Road and Pleasant Hill volunteer fire departments. The Elkin Rescue Squad and EMS members provided rehab and medical standby.
Several instructors from Surry Community College led the training. “They were excellent and gave us as many opportunities as possible to give our folks chances to get good training inside the structure,” Morton said of the instructors. “They used almost every room in the building, including the basement for a couple of revolutions, so they made use of the entire structure. They probably set at least one fire in every room, and more than one in several rooms.”
Opportunities like the one Monday only come when buildings are made available to the departments, Morton said, and it gives firefighters a more realistic look at how to attack a blaze than a burn building would. “While we have a burn building in Dobson available and it’s designed to be burned, it’s not the same as an actual flammable structure and flammable contents,” he said.
“It is easy to learn the burn building after a few times and how to identify where you are, with this building we don’t walk through it every day. They get to see how a fire burns differently in an actual house rather than in a building designed to burn with propane.”
Another benefit to the live burn training is a chance for the department to use its own equipment and have all the firefighters attend, whereas going to Dobson means someone and some equipment must stay behind in Elkin to make sure the fire district is protected, he said.
The firefighters finished their interior attack training, and at about 10:30 p.m., they began external training and focused on getting the building down.
“Part of the reason we cherish the opportunity these people give us when they have a building they want to tear down — it doesn’t have to be a burn, there can be other opportunities for training — is it puts our people in scenarios more like real experiences,” Morton said. “It’s still not realist, but it’s the closest we can get.
“We appreciate the fact that someone stepped up and allowed us the opportunity,” he said, also thanking those who live in the neighborhood for allowing their daily lives to be interrupted for the night. The training meant Oak Grove Road from Wesley Drive to Mountain View Road had to be closed off to traffic from 6 p.m. until all equipment was out of the roadway, which required cooperation from the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
“We certainly welcome those [training] opportunities,” Morton said. In addition to a live burn, if someone has a structure which is going to be torn down or renovated, the chief said other training opportunities could include practicing rescues in a building, vision obscured searches, pulling hose through a building to learn to deal with mazes of rooms; if interior doors or locks are to be replace training could be forcible entry training; or if a roof is going to be replaced, then firefighters could practice roof ventilation.
Anyone interested in providing training opportunities can do so by calling the Elkin Fire Department at 336-794-6481. More information on the fire department can be found on its new website, elkinfire.com.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.