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Photos of 2019 Live House Burn Training
Firefighters got the chance to train inside an actual burning house in 2019 (scroll down for photos). Thanks to a collaborative effort among City departments, a house near University Ave and 49th Ave was acquired and made available for live-burn training (the house was scheduled to be demolished, anyway). Planks of untreated wood and bundles of straw were set up throughout the house to fuel the live burns. As some residents gathered to watch, firefighters practiced Level 1 and Level 2 exercises inside the building. Level 2 training sessions involved simultaneous multi-room fires. Entering in teams of three, firefighters ran a total of 14 training sessions. Others kept watch outside to make sure the garage and surrounding trees didn't catch fire.

This type of training is ideal because it gives firefighters real-world experience in a controlled setting with multiple instructors on hand, said Fire Chief Charlie Thompson. Columbia Heights firefighters gained experience managing zero visibility conditions, using air tanks and full gear, completing heat and smoke ventilation procedures (which involved using a fire hose spray to blast out the windows), and collaborating under high pressure situations. Being in that environment also gave them a chance to study how the nature of smoke in a fire changes as the room grows hotter. The ability to read smoke patterns to gain information about the severity of a fire is a life-saving skill, Thompson said.

The day was long, but the firefighters had fun facing down the particular challenges the 4827 house offered, Thompson said. Training started at 8 am and ended around 1:30 pm when the house was allowed to burn down completely. The team of trainees looked on as the fire took over. It took roughly six hours for the flames to finish the job.

As the house burned, residents, including people who once lived in the home, watched from a safe distance, sipping hot chocolate and coffee.

The Columbia Heights Fire Department is currently looking for more paid on-call firefighters to join the team. If you or someone you know might be interested in becoming a firefighter, please call 763-706-8150.
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