A peaceful Sunday morning in Lakeview was interrupted by fire and smoke billowing out from the house at 937 N. 7th St., all part of the plan for a planned burn of the property allowing fire fighting crews to train in real world scenarios.
The house was donated to the Lakeview Fire Department for training purposes, a rare treat for fire crews to utilize a property to perform burns permitting training exercises for various crews before burning down the entire location.
Six different fire crews were on hand to participate from Lakeview, Bly, Thomas Creek Westside, Pine Creek Willow Ranch, as well as Lakeview EMS, all overseen by a Battalion Chief from Klamath Falls.
Many of the fire fighters were getting their first taste of extinguishing a house fire, fresh from Fire Fighter One academic courses held by Lakeview and Thomas Creek Westside fire departments to earn fire fighter certification.
“It’s hard to find properties to train on, we’re lucky if we get one of these every five years,” said Lakeview Fire Chief Dennis Morrill. “It’s an invaluable experience especially for new fire fighters, and we have a bunch of new people, some may find out from this experience that perhaps this might not be the job for them. This isn’t part of the Fire Fighter One class, but it allows those who haven’t had any fire experience to get a feel for what it is like to be in a room on fire.”
Each fire department had an opportunity to set a small room fire and practice putting it out inside the house, with a backup and ventilation crew on hand for safety purposes while each crew ran through drills. Ventilation fans were used to keep the smoke inside to decrease impact on the community and to control the size of the fires set inside.
After each room had been extensively burned and extinguished repeatedly giving every fire fighter a taste of the claustrophobic and chaotic scenario of a smoke-filled room fire, the entire home was set aflame to clear the property lot of a house that would have otherwise been torn down.
Crews worked in coordination to keep the flames only on the property and not reach any vegetation or surrounding homes as a crowd gathered along the street to watch the house slowly disintegrate away, leaving only a chimney and a few remnants standing by the time the flames finally died down.
Normally a chaotic and urgent scene when a house is on fire, the training session proved far more festive. Many fire fighters posed for photos outside, even the whole team pausing to take a large group photo as the house became engulfed in flames behind them. Sadly nobody remembered to bring weenies or s’mores, but for many on site it had the friendly feeling akin to a backyard barbeque.
“I don’t know how many people have lived there,” said Frank Vaughn, who resides across from the burned property. “It didn’t seem worth fixing up, and rather than tear it down this gives these guys a good training opportunity.”