Watch It Burn: Ellicott City House Set Afire for Safety's Sake (VIDEO)
The fire department held a live burn training operation at a donated house.
It’s not often that firefighters burn a house down, but that’s just what they did over the weekend in Ellicott City.
The “live burn training” was the second such training event that the county has done this year -- just two months after Howard County Fire and Rescue instituted a policy on such training exercises, according to Chief John Jerome, head of HCDFRS education and training.
About 25 firefighters and 12 instructors and safety personnel arrived at the house at 4100 College Ave., before 7 a.m. Saturday to prep it for the burn. The house had been set for demolition, according to HCDFRS spokeswoman Jackie Cutler, and the owner donated it to the department.
Anything that could act as an accelerant -- including carpeting, gas tanks and the house’s siding -- was removed.
The training crew of about 25 firefighters walked through the house to get a sense of its layout before lighting the structure on fire and putting out the blaze.
Once training was complete, the house was set on fire one last time and allowed to burn to the ground.
The department has not done live burn training since 2004 when concerns about the safety of the practice were expressed at fire departments across the country, according to Jerome. At the time, there was no department-wide policy to regulate live burn training.
Training in a house as opposed to a building constructed specifically for fire training, such as the one at the Howard County Public Safety Training Facility in Marriottsville, does have its risks, Jerome said. But those risks better prepare firefighters for situations they'll face on the job.
"Taking that risk," he said, "is a safety initiative."