WINCHESTER — Flames flared out a second-story window of a burning house Tuesday, heating up an otherwise cool, rainy afternoon during a rare training opportunity for Douglas County firefighters.
Douglas County Fire District No. 2 set on fire a donated house in the 1400 block of Del Rio Road in Winchester to give hands-on experience to five newly hired firefighters and six student firefighters, Capt. Barry Hutchings said.
Once the house was ignited in the morning, the firefighter trainees suited up and went inside with instructors to observe how fire moves through a wooden structure, he said.
“They get to see what we’re talking about,” Hutchings said. “They get to see the fire build and then see what happens when they put water on it.”
By afternoon, the upper story of the house was engulfed in flames. Firefighters watched from outside and took precautions to make sure the fire didn’t spread to a nearby tree by spraying branches with foam.
The house would be allowed to burn to the ground, Hutchings said.
“There will be nothing there, but a pile of ash when we’re done,” he said.
Hutchings said he was thankful the house’s owner, who plans to build a new house in the place of the burned one, donated the structure.
“We get these houses, when we’re lucky, once a year, so we take advantage of it,” he said. “We’re teaching (student firefighters) how to fight structure fires under training conditions prior to the real fire they have maybe later this evening.”
Umpqua Community College paramedic and fire science student Brennen Fong, 23, of Sutherlin said participating in the controlled burn was great practice.
“Not a lot of people are willing to have their house burned down. It’s kind of a nice opportunity to get some more realistic training,” he said.
Michael Lipp, 27, of Roseburg, also a UCC paramedic and fire science student, said it was most interesting seeing how fire spreads through a house.
“Fire behavior would probably be the most important thing we see, how fast the fire grows,” he said. “It’s always talked about. When you see it in front of you, it’s pretty impressive to see how fast the fire grows.”
During the exercise, Lipp said he practiced many of the skills he’d learned in class.
“It ties it all together because we talk about stuff, and we train for different tasks. When you see it in person, it makes you understand each task,” he said.
Shali Marshall, 20, of Sutherlin is working on her paramedic degree at UCC. She said that Tuesday was her first time practicing for a house fire.
“You learn your limits. You learn whether you can take the heat,” she said. “It’s really hot. You’ve got the gear on, but you can still feel that heat.”
Marshall said she came out of the experience with an immense respect for the challenges firefighters face when combating a house fire.
“There’s so much these guys have to consider,” she said. “There’s an intensive amount of work that goes into fighting a structural fire.”
• You can reach reporter Inka Bajandas at 541-957-4202 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.