Hanover firefighters tout many benefits of practice burn

Oldest house in Hanover burned for training

The oldest remaining home in Hanover, at 11174 River Rd., burns as part of a practice drill. Firefighters said there is no better training for real fires than practice burns. (Photo by Mackenzie Malewicki)

The oldest remaining home in Hanover, at 11174 River Rd., burns as part of a practice drill. Firefighters said there is no better training for real fires than practice burns. (Photo by Mackenzie Malewicki)

Firefighters the world over are renowned for their ability to put out fires … but part of their valuable training actually involves starting fires. 

In this case, the Hanover Fire and Rescue Department recently burned down the city’s oldest house as part of a practice drill.

Firefighters confer on their next steps for training during the practice burn in Hanover. The training is so valuable and rare that members of other area departments sent new firefighters there for practice. (Photo by Mackenzie Malewicki)

Firefighters confer on their next steps for training during the practice burn in Hanover. The training is so valuable and rare that members of other area departments sent new firefighters there for practice. (Photo by Mackenzie Malewicki)

 

A firefighter hoses down the exterior of the old home at 11174 River Rd. in Hanover. Firefighters said the primary purpose of a practice burn is for training inside the home. (Photo by Mackenzie Malewicki)

A firefighter hoses down the exterior of the old home at 11174 River Rd. in Hanover. Firefighters said the primary purpose of a practice burn is for training inside the home. (Photo by Mackenzie Malewicki)

Hanover Fire and Rescue Department Training Officer Mike Pocklington said there is simply no better training than having a donated house to burn. Besides just setting the flames and fighting the fire from outside the home, Pocklington said most of the training comes from what to do inside the home. He said firefighters go through level one and level two, hazardous materials and medical first responder training.

“In order to be able to do something, the fire department needs to train and they need as much realistic training as possible,” he said. “With the practice burn there is heat involved, darkness involved, things falling, noise, detectors going off.”

He said the house was actually used before the fire, as well. This involved rescues of people trapped in basements, and rescues of people trapped on the second floor.

“We had a non-toxic smoke machine, a practice drill for rescue, so we go crawling through these places,” he said. “We start out with rescue, and then practice ventilation. We practice advancing hoses, these things are heavy and stiff.”

Then the department started a room on fire and let it get going. Trainees go in and practice, look for where the fire is and how to control the interior for heat.

“When we go in that house we don’t know where the fire is,” Pocklington said. “We started fires in different rooms and then practice the small fires first. Then we start a real big fire, really rolling, a lot of heat, a lot of fire, then we advance and start putting these out. It’s not just like we lit the place on fire and sat there. We went in approximately nine different times with the fire. Then we let it burn down.”

Assistant fire chief Rich Engle said there is no better training for firefighter than having a house to burn. He said the practice is so vital and rare (“lucky to get one home per year”), that members of other area departments like Rogers and Rockford, especially new firefighters, were also on site for training. The new firefighters need to pass level one training, which Engle said is the “highest priority.”

“It’s so critical,” Engle said. “They need to get this under their belts in a controlled situation before we send them to a real structure fire. When we do these burns, fire instructors come out to assist us. It’s additional supervision you don’t get in a real scenario.”

Pocklington added, “The burn was very valuable. From oldest to brand new members all working together practicing. There’s no way on earth you can simulate what we do.”

Pocklington also said safety is number one above all else when doing practice burns and any fire drills. He credited this group of volunteers who are “a different breed.”

“It’s all dedication,” he said. “It’s over 100 hours of training in beginning and constant training every month. Our main objective is life safety. It’s very serious business, we don’t do this for fun. We want to do our jobs and do it to the best ability possible, it’s something that’s in you.”

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