By Ivan Raconteur
NEW GERMANY, MN More than 30 firefighters from the New Germany and Mayer fire departments stood by and watched a house in New Germany burn to the ground Monday after participating in more than two hours of training inside the structure.
The practice burn at the residence on State Avenue North (Carver County Road 33) was organized by the New Germany Fire Department.
New Germany Fire Chief Steve VanLith described it as a very good training exercise, and said eight shifts of firefighters were able to train using equipment under real fire conditions in the house before the structure was deemed unsafe, and allowed to burn completely.
During the exercise, firefighters sprayed water on trees and shrubs, as well as a nearby residence, to protect them from the fire.
One way they do this is by using a water curtain. This is created by a device which connects to the end of a hose and generates a fine mist of water that shoots high into the air.
“We had a good turnout from both departments. It was good working with another department,” VanLith said.
He explained that practice burns like this give firefighters the chance to participate in live fire training.
“You can watch all the movies you want, and read all the books, but until you get in there, you don’t know what it is like,” VanLith said.
A live burn is much more intense that practicing in the city hall in the dark, VanLith said.
“It was so black you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face,” he explained. “You have to get down on your hands and knees and feel your way around.”
VanLith said the live training gives firefighters a chance to work with the heat, and they learn to respect the fire.
“It was quite an experience,” VanLith said.
Other firefighters agreed.
“It was awesome!” New Germany firefighter Ria Roland commented. “I wish we could train like that every month.”
Roland said some of the best training comes from working under fire conditions. She added that working with the another department is a good way to practice communication.
VanLith explained that the training consists of starting fires in stacks of pallets, shredded paper, and straw that are staged in the corners of rooms within the house.
Firefighters then go in and put out the fire and then light it again.
Once the fire gets into the walls and ceiling, the structure becomes unsafe, and they let it burn.
In the case of Monday’s training, they had hoped to get six shifts out of it, and were able to get at least eight.
“It was a solid old house, and it burned slowly,” VanLith explained. “We wouldn’t have got that out of a new house.”
VanLith said training with the Mayer Fire Department, which New Germany often works with on mutual aid calls, as well as giving firefighters hands-on training, made the event an extremely valuable experience.
In addition to having a good turnout from the fire departments, there was a good turnout from city residents, who lined up lawn chairs in front of their homes during the event to watch the action.