House fires usually catch people by surprise. That’s part of what makes them so dangerous. It’s not too often that someone can say with certainty that there will be a house fire in a particular place at a particular time.
However, Saturday, Feb. 18 –– at 315 Deerwood Lane in the Highlands of Belle Rive subdivision –– is an exception.
There will be multiple fires at that location on that date between about 8 a.m. and 1 or 2 p.m.
But have no fear. Brentwood Fire & Rescue knows about them, too. In fact, the department is setting them and will be putting them out as well.
The fires are part of training exercises that the department holds periodically to give its firefighters additional practice and experience battling real blazes. Given the relative dearth of fires in the area, these exercises are vital for the training purposes of both Brentwood Fire & Rescue and surrounding departments, several of whom will participate in Saturday’s live fire training.
As valuable as these exercises are, they’re not very easy to set up, Brentwood Fire & Rescue Chief Brian Goss said. The department can’t just find an abandoned building and say, “Hey let’s go set that on fire.”
On the contrary, the department typically has to wait for property owners to approach it about doing this kind of training.
“People usually come to us after buying a parcel of property with a home on it they want to tear down,” Goss said.
Residents might ask why on earth a property owner would choose to have his building set on fire instead of just knocked down, but there are benefits to buyers and developers with this arrangement.
“After we burn the house, because so much of the material is eliminated, it costs them about one-third of what it would cost to have the entire structure torn down and have to haul everything away in trucks,” Goss said.
After a property is located in this way, numerous things have to be done to the home before it is ready to be set on fire. Due to environmental regulations, things like shingles, carpeting, linoleum floors and appliances all have to be removed at the owner’s expense. Paint samples and flooring samples have to be sent for inspection to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. An official TDEC inspection of the premises has to take place.
But it’s all worth it, Goss said.
Even before the burn, the department gets dozens of hours of training out of a building like the one in Belle Rive. Without a fire, firefighters can still practice forcible entry, laddering and breaching procedures at such a location.
“It’s a huge benefit to us because we don’t have a lot of fires in Brentwood, and it gives us the opportunity to do some live fire training in an actual house that you just can’t get with a simulator,” Goss said.
Brentwood Fire and Rescue Training Officer Russell Peterson agreed, in a City of Brentwood news release.
“There’s no way you can replicate the environment of a real house fire. This is as close as you can get.”
Multiple fires will be set Saturday to allow the department to practice different skills in different scenarios. Firefighters will do search and rescue drills, forcible entry and breaching drills, see firsthand how fire behaves in a structure and practice arriving on the scene and making an initial fire report, among other things.
“We train like we work so when it comes time to work we do it like we train,” Goss said.
Brentwood Fire & Rescue has done between 30 and 40 of these live fire training sessions in the past 15 years, Goss estimated. With that number comes a lot of experience, and Brentwood Fire & Rescue has consequently become something of the local expert in conducting such exercises.
“Several of our members teach the course on how to conduct live fire training at the Fire and Codes Academy in Bell Buckle,” Assistant Fire Chief David Windrow said in a news release. “Some of the students from the two most recent classes will also attend to practice and use their new skills.”
Spectators are welcome, Chief Goss said. Although they will obviously be kept a certain distance away from the action.