Bear River firefighters had an opportunity for some unique training April 13 as they spent the morning simulating various types of fires in an old house. Then they burnt it down.
The first clue that something was happening on the Clementsvale Road, out towards the Virginia Road, were the plumes of dark smoke, then the sign that said ‘Emergency Scene.’ Then it was fire trucks and onlookers as crews sat back and kept an eye on the burning house.
“A storey-and-half house here. We’re doing live fire training,” said Bear River Deputy Fire Chief David McCormick. “We set up barrels and pallets and we did a live fire exercise.”
By 1 p.m. most of the training was over and firefighters from across the area were watching it go.
“The homeowner gave us the house to burn down,” said McCormick. “He’s an ex-member of the Annapolis Royal Fire Department, just recently moved back here and wants to build a house on this property. He was going to come down and he had a permit to burn it – so we helped him and he helped us do our training exercise in here.”
Firefighters are in full turnout gear and have been since breakfast time. It’s raining and canopy tents are set up as a command centre on the front lawn closer to the road.
“We’ve been here since eight o’clock this morning,” McCormick said. “We did upstairs fires and we did main-level fires. We had an oil barrel cut in two and we built fires in the oil barrels. We’d go in and simulate how to extinguish a fire – content room fires. We could show people exactly what a short burst of water will do from an inch-and-a-half or inch-and-three-quarter line. Watch the room darken down and whatnot.”
They’ve done this sort of controlled burn before and it’s always worth the time – even on a Saturday.
“This is invaluable training. It’s really hard to come by,” said McCormick, adding the department appreciates the homeowner allowing them the opportunity. And it’s not just Bear River on the scene. “We have Smiths Cove, Annapolis, and Digby here. Four departments here. It’s hard to get this kind of training without going to Waverly.”
And a couple of firefighters came from a lot further away.
“Actually we have a guy from HRM here and we have a guy from Aylesford Fire Department who helped us with the burn today,” he said. “They’re all firefighters who are interested in doing this. They love to come do this.”
While cars stop on the side of the road and people get out with their cell phones and cameras to take photos, firefighters sit on an old stone wall. The fire crackles and you can feel the heat from 30 metres away. Flames shoot into the air, out doors and windows almost like a living thing. The roof is almost gone and the chimney stands alone in the middle of the inferno.
“We’re just keeping an eye on it,” said McCormick. “We’ve got two safety lines charged and ready to go just in case we need them. It’s rained here all day. It’s a really nice day for it.”