Controlled burn makes for excellent training

As was reported in the May 23 issue of the Sanborn Weekly Journal, an empty house in Woonsocket was scheduled for a controlled burn, but it was too windy. Weather conditions were excellent on Saturday for all kinds of outdoor activities, including a controlled burn, so after the rummage sales were over at 1 p.m., the Town and Country Fire District of Woonsocket got to work.

The house that was burned was owned by Elliott and Rikki Ohlrogge. It was located in the lot connected to the west side of the lot they live on. For the readers who are from Woonsocket but no longer live in the area, the Ohlrogges live in the home where Elliott’s grandparents, Ray and Donna Ohlrogge, used to live. The house that was burned down once belonged to Teresa Hastreiter and then Mary Jo Vetter. Once Vetter passed away, the house was owned by her daughter, Margaret Christensen, until she sold it to Ohlrogges. 

According to Second Assistant Fire Chief Rick George, controlled burns of buildings that are donated to the fire department are incredibly helpful and essential in training new recruits. With this particular burn, they started the fire in one room to show the newer members of the department how a fire behaves. Within two minutes, the house was completely engulfed in heavy smoke. “With these burns, we run what we call ‘15-minute’ drills because that’s about how long it takes for us to get to a fire outside of town. We can see what a fire does and how it behaves in that amount of time, so we know what to be prepared for once we get to a fire; it’s a great learning experience for our newer fire fighters.”

While working on this controlled burn, George stated that they can also see how flammable certain materials are. For example, the house was covered in vinyl siding on the outside. George commented that vinyl siding is as flammable as petroleum and will be destroyed in seconds. On Saturday, they were working on keeping the fire contained and away from surrounding buildings. There was a small shed that they wanted to keep clear of the fire and a tree they wanted to save on the west side of the house being destoyed.  George explained that the Ohlrogges weren’t necessarily concerned about saving the tree, but it was great practice for the fire fighters to keep the fire contained in one area and from spreading to surrounding buildings and other items that need to be saved at times.

According to George, these burns are very helpful with building and maintaining a strong volunteer fire department. “When we are finished with a controlled burn, we all return to the fire house and discuss what was learned and what we could do differently or better, just as we do when we return from an actual fire call. It is awesome to see the newer members excited about what they have gained from the experiences and discussions we have, and it is a relief to seasoned fire fighters that the tradition of a great fire department will continue for years to come.”

…See pictures in this week’s issue of the Sanborn Weekly Journal!

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