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38 Buildings To Burn:”Johnny Reb”

Maryland’s Bill Carey takes the great opportunity that the firefighters in Ogden have and looks at the vast educational opportunities, in our double-feature post.



The fire department in Ogden, Utah has the unique opportunity of having slightly over three dozen abandoned, private dwellings to burn. With burning in acquired structures a seldom and often taboo thing to do, I don’t think there is any department in the country that would turn away from the chance to “get back to basics”, if they have what Ogden has.

So long as they don’t kill anyone.

38 Buildings To Burn: “Billy Yank”

Read: Dave looks at Ogden’s live burn opportunity.

Considering that the structures are in various states of abandonment, I’ll play it safe and figure that half are probably not worth anything except work for a bulldozer. That still gives us 19 to use. So, considering all the proper safety and responsibility issues that Dave mentioned, let’s get to work.

I would give one each to every news and radio news station in the area as well as the department press information officer. Here each gaggle of reporters, videographers and local civic-minded bloggers would have a date and time available for them to see one or more of the following:
- fire behavior
- importance of smoke alarms/home sprinklers
- basic firefighting operations and staffing issues
- search and rescue inside a structure fire

Next, I would offer a structure or two to the local police department and EMS departments in the area, for training on standoff/barricade situations. The benefits would go beyond the obvious incident command issues, but would help foster and reinforce relationships among all public safety agencies.

Finally, we would burn. A lot of talk about training generally falls back to “getting back to the basics.” There are two reasons for this; we either go back because we know it is good to stay sharp and fresh on our tactics, or we have had problems in the past that cause us to take the time to run some drills and see what we are doing wrong. That said, each structure remaining would have a three to five day schedule depending upon its condition. Day One would be spent reviewing department general orders for firefighting and then running scenarios with no fire, dry lines and throwing ladders. Here we want our instructors and chief officers to take note of mistakes made and communication errors for followup immediately after and again in the future. If the problems on Day One are bad enough, then we repeat the drill on Day Two. The point I hope you see is, if we can’t do “the basics” and communicate them when nothing is burning, then we need to stop and fix the problems before we light the first fire. Heat, smoke and adrenaline aren’t going to make the operation run correctly.

Day Two, if Day One went well, will be spent reviewing mayday communication and RIC operations. Here we want to make sure that the communication and operations go as smooth as the basic operations. Ladder bails, window bails as well as finding and removing the downed firefighter would be the main subjects. Again, we want to reinforce the basics that should already be known, and look for errors in both operation and communication.

Day Three would be the burn day, unless the condition of the structure (or mistakes to correct) gives us more time to work on truck company operations. Looking further into the local Ogden information, it is likely that most of these structures would only be viable for on good fire. The focus of the actual burn would be on the initial company operations, communication and command. The one house a week schedule could give plenty of time for training, as well as be flexible enough to work on mistakes, slant toward training on a specific fireground or company function and include mutual aid companies as well.

What would you do?

References
“Ogden plans to torch dozens of houses” Salt Lake Tribune, August 2010
Google Map of Area
Firefighter Nation Story

Photographs courtesy Wayne Barrall/FITHP.net

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