Live fire training benefits community
April 13, 2023
All the firefighters in Wahkiakum County are volunteers. Each week, they show up to their departments for education and training, but rarely do they get to practice their skills in real, but controlled and safe ways.
Thanks to Brett and Sharon Deaton who donated a house on their Elochoman Valley property, the volunteers got to practice exterior firefighting methods at a live fire on Saturday.
It was a win/win/win situation. The training benefits the firefighters, and thus the community, but it was also a solution for the Deatons who wanted the land but did not want to keep the house.
"There was a lot of work and training that went into this event," M.D. Johnson of District 4 Fire Department said.
According to Johnson, a fellow member of the District 4 Fire Department, Jack Leavitt, devoted dozens of hours to the project, providing trainings for volunteers on the property every Thursday, and planning the burn that took place on April 8.
The fire was started by another volunteer firefighter, Billy Peek, who spent much of the next hour helping four rotations of volunteers get comfortable handling hoses as they attacked the fire from the exterior of the building.
The fire grew and retreated with each blast of water, but planners knew there was only a small window in which it would be safe to train before the fire became too large, and the structure was consumed in a red hot sea of flames.
It was something to witness, and it was hot. I was a good 40 feet from the house, and I took a step back from the heat, only to have to step back again a moment later.
Firefighters watered the fire engine parked nearby to keep it cool, and others made sure that the nearby trees didn't burn.
"Everybody got to participate. There were several cadets there that saw this for the first time," Johnson said. "The biggest thing was that nobody got hurt."
Johnson expressed gratitude to the Puget Island Fire Auxiliary for putting on a great feed and to the Deatons for all their help.
"This was fantastic real life training," he said. "We don't have these kinds of opportunities very often. Its not an inexpensive thing. There was quite an expenditure getting asbestos removed, and they took that upon themselves prior to donating the property to us."
According to Sharon Deaton, they had to get a permit from the Southwest Clean Air Agency and it cost $20,000 to have the asbestos removed, but they would have had to pay that anyway if they'd gone a different route. This way, Deaton said, the community was able to get something out of it and now there is not much clean up left for them.
"If something happens at your house or your outbuilding, or whatever, we're ready," Johnson said. "These are the kind of things that allow us to be ready and prepared if you have a problem."