Fire crews cut training short due to high winds

Capt. Walter Gibbons of the Etna Fire Department hoses down a house as part of a multi-department training exercise at 289 West Etna Road on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012.
Alex Barber | BDN
Capt. Walter Gibbons of the Etna Fire Department hoses down a house as part of a multi-department training exercise at 289 West Etna Road on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012. Buy Photo
Posted Nov. 25, 2012, at 1:46 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 25, 2012, at 2:01 p.m.

ETNA, Maine — Wind gusts cut a six-department fire training exercise short Sunday morning.

Fire crews from Etna, Plymouth, Stetson, Newburgh, Hermon and Levant took part in fire training at 289 West Etna Road, the site of a blaze that took place in July.

“We knew the wind was going to be a factor,” said Etna Deputy Fire Chief Aaron Brown. “We knew there were going to be drafts, we just didn’t know how big.”

Rather than risk injury or spreading the fire, the exercises were cut short, ending before 10:30 a.m.

“We were really hoping to burn it, but better safe than sorry,” said Brown.

Brown said they did start one fire in order to train two new Etna firefighters.

“We took them in and let them watch [the fire] build so they could see what it looks like and how it acts,” he said. “We got some training out of it, but not as much as we’d like to.”

It was disappointing, Brown said, that more training wasn’t able to be done because of the gusts.

“It’s kind of depressing that we didn’t get to do more fires, especially with the number of resources we had come out today,” said the deputy chief. “Everyone’s being real good about it. I can’t thank them enough.”

Training was originally scheduled for last weekend, but Brown said he was unable to get enough crews to participate.

“It’s hard right now to get the volunteers to come out on a Sunday or Saturday and spend eight or more hours doing this,” he said, adding that his crew left the station at 7 a.m. and had planned on being there until 7 p.m. if the weather cooperated.

On July 23, crews from 13 communities responded to a fire at 289 West Etna Road. At the time, Brown said it was the most widespread response to a structure fire in Etna’s history.

Brown said it’s an extensive process in order to use a privately-owned building for fire training.

“We have to get paperwork from the insurance company that says it’s no longer under insurance or it’s already been taken care of,” Brown said. “The homeowner writes a form out saying that we are here to burn it or demolish it.”

Crews also have to rebuild the interior in order to replicate a typical fire response scenario.

“We have to come in and build it and make sure all the rooms are ready to go,” said Brown.

Plywood and drywall are often donated to the departments, he said.

Etna Fire Department previously used a house just a mile down the road for similar training. Brown said the owners planned to demolish it, but instead donated it to the department.

“We trained in that for about a month. We did 28 fires in it, right back to back,” he said. “The building held up great.”

The home the crews are at on Sunday wasn’t as ideal, said Brown, but he planned on getting five or six training fires out of it in one day.

The firefighters will try the training again after snow is on the ground, he said.

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