Firefighters don’t often throw hay on a burning building.
But that’s what they did Saturday at two structure fires used for training exercises off the Old May Road.
“We’ve got a few new volunteer firefighters, and this training will help them understand what to do,” Early Volunteer Fire Dept. Chief Travis Eoff said during a break. “We are fortunate to have Blanket here with us, because we often find ourselves working together. We had hoped to have some from Zephyr, but I guess they weren’t able to make it.”
Fires were set at two structures on property owned by members of the Kelcy family. The buildings had deteriorated to a point where they were going to be torn down, but the owners offered them to the fire department for training use instead, Eoff said.
“It’s good that we get to train together,” Eoff said. “We get to know each other a little better in a situation that isn’t so stressful.”
Even though there was no pressure to save the structures during the training, many of the problems firefighters might encounter were either duplicated or developed. Tanks ran out of oxygen and had to be refilled, traffic drawn to the site by dark smoke billowing skyward had to be controlled, and sources of water had to be identified.
Breaks were taken between exercises as firefighters recovered after the exhaustive effort of moving water hoses into the buildings and pulling a 180-pound dummy outside to safety — all the while wearing protective gear and are tanks.
The training began before 8 a.m., and the smoke from the first burning building perhaps 50 yards from the road attracted numerous onlookers. The second structure, a house right off the county road, was controlled enough to generate minimal flames but considerable smoke for most of Saturday morning.
As the fire spread into the attic around noon, firefighters decided to spread hay on the floors and ignite it with an accelerant to create flames for firefighters to fight. After an initial round, during which the flames were quickly fought back, Blanket firefighters heard the alarm for a real fire — a grass fire in eastern Brown County.
Early firefighters remained at the scene, allowing the flames to flare and destroy what was left of the home. They turned their water hoses on adjacent tree limbs to protect them from the intense heat.
A third structure nearby is also scheduled for a training exercise later in the summer.