Burning down the houses

FLAMES engulfed one of the EDA buildings at Broadacres last week, as the Tracy Fire Department orchestrated a planned fire for training purposes.

Controlled burn in Broadacres serves dual purposes

By Per Peterson

As flames licked the night air and black smoke billowed, a pair of houses in Tracy burned to the ground last week … just as planned.

Members of the Tracy Fire Department took part in a wide-scale training session last Wednesday, as two Broadacres houses — one on Spruce Street and the other facing Center Street — were purposely destroyed.

Firefighters were on the scene by about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday prepping the scene and getting everything ready for the burn in advance of the arrival of two State Fire Marshal instructors.

“We started getting the trucks out here then, got all the hoses out,” Rolling said. “Just getting everything set up and prepared.”

But the prep work began well before last Wednesday. Rolling said the first prep work was done last Monday night inside the two houses.

“We set up rooms, so they could go in and do the burns and let the firemen see what happens in a fire, and in an arson case — how to do the basic investigation, cause of origin,” Rolling said. “Between the planning and doing all the paperwork, we’ve been working on this for weeks.”

Rolling said burning down a house for training purposes doesn’t just happen. 

“To do a house burn, you’ve gotta have the right permits from the state, you gotta have the right instructors,” he said. “You just don’t go and burn down a house anymore. There’s just so much with it. With a house, you’ve got the shingles, the siding, you’ve gotta do asbestos abatements … “

The fire department has been training in the EDA-owned houses for some time.

“This gives us the ability to set up all the equipment, all the hoses,” Rolling said. “Anytime we can get the training in a real-life situation like this, the better it is. We can bring the fire marshals in, get to know them, get to work with them, they’re more familiar with us.”

Rolling said some fire department members have had extensive training, but the majority of the department hasn’t experienced training to this level.