By Nathan Ham
Shortly before Thanksgiving, firefighters from Boone, Meat Camp, Foscoe, Blowing Rock and Cove Creek all had a chance to take part in live firefighting training on Saturday, November 20 during a controlled burn of a house on Johnson Street behind Watauga Medical Center.
Firefighters were in full gear and prepared to learn and experience real-life training scenarios.
“It is immeasurable the amount of training and experience that comes from being able to do something like this,” said Mike Teague, who is the Assistant Chief with the Boone Fire Department. “This home had been damaged in the past and was not repairable, but it was still a structurally sound and safe house. We got all the permits and we had fire instructors that set fires and the firefighters go in.”
The training exercises give younger firefighters additional training to prepare for when they have to respond to a real emergency.
“It allows us to mesh crews together and put people together to come help and suppress these fires. It gives us very valuable experience,” Teague said.
The safety of the crews is the most important thing during these training exercises. Not just any old home or building can be used for this purpose.
“The house has to be pretty much almost livable and has to be structurally sound. If it is a house or a building or structure that is falling or has fallen in, we cannot burn those,” Teague said. “We can’t burn trailers or any kind of mobile property like that, and only structures that someone is donating. This house we had a fire in about 14 months ago and because the damage was too expensive to repair, the homeowner donated the house to us for training.”
Teague added that they would like to do one or two of these training burns a year, however, most of the time, they are lucky to get one every year or two. This year they were fortunate enough to have two training fires in 2021 and have one scheduled for the spring of 2022.
“We take advantage of it when we can, it gives us a chance to evaluate personnel on their skills and we work to try to improve that and it makes us a much better overall fire department,” Teague said.