Fire officials oversee a slow burn
Sunday's warm temperatures and low winds set the perfect stage for a fire training exercise in Oak Bluffs. About 30 fire officials ignited and then oversaw the burning of an unoccupied building on Barnes Road, which gave many new recruits their first taste of being up-close and personal with the flames.
Oak Bluffs fire chief Dennis Alley said the all-volunteer department does one burning exercise a year. "It was great training for the recruits who haven't been exposed" to that kind of situation before, Chief Alley said. "Everything went off real good."
About 30 crewmembers, half of whom were new recruits, gathered at 10 am at 506 Barnes Rd. near the Blinker intersection. The small building, made partly of cement, was donated for the exercise. The cement component made the exercise safer, Chief Alley said. Crews were on the site for the burning and supplementary exercises for nearly six hours.
Oak Bluffs fire officials lit this Barnes Road building on fire Sunday as part of a training exercise. Photo by Skip Bettencourt:
Chief Alley said the crew normally does one training exercise a year, to give new firefighters the chance to practice before being on the scene of an actual blaze.
In order to do such an exercise, the fire department must go though the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and submit a fire training request form and a building inspection form. According to guidelines listed on the DEP web site, fire-training exercises should be performed during daylight hours in dwellings that simulate real life situations, and they are necessary tools to keep firefighters up to speed on the methods used to combat fires.
"The dwellings that are used are abandoned and are donated by their owners," the web site states. "The fire departments generally utilize short burns; using the building as many times as is practical. At the conclusion of the training activities the remainder of the building is burned with the structure falling into the cellar hole."
The burn must take place during good weather conditions - low wind and mild temperatures - and neighbors should be notified, the web site states.
Chief Alley said one neighbor came by during Sunday's burn to inquire about the situation, and was understanding about the department's exercise.
Aside from combating the fire, Chief Alley said the new recruits were shown other exercises inside and outside the building, before and after it was set afire. Although some were hesitant, Chief Alley said none of the trainees were scared away from the daunting job.
"We were getting them exposed to as much heat as we could and do it in a safe manner," Chief Alley said. "They got a little taste."