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Firefighters train on old house, ask for others

By Daniel Silliman

Rookie firefighters in blue helmets hung onto long, white fire hoses, putting water on a blazing house during a training exercise.

For the rookies, Wednesday was only the second time they had ever rushed into an actual fire.

Previously, the class of would-be firefighters had trained in a controlled test building in Peachtree City. But Clayton County Fire Department officials say there's nothing like the experience of a live fire in a real house.

"We need houses," said Deputy Chief Jerry Russell, who oversees the department's training operations. "It's good for the county to get rid of these houses, but also, we [almost] never get training like this."

Russell said the county's firefighters train on old houses only about five times a year, and the department is interested in looking at any structurally sound houses which are slated for destruction.

Right now, with only a few houses available to the department every year, Russell runs rookies through the training exercises of a real fire. The deputy chief said if he had more houses, however, he could get firefighters into more training programs, and could get veterans into situations where they could train for more complicated emergencies, such as what to do when a burning house is collapsing.

The house on fire on Wednesday, on Patton Road, in Jonesboro, was donated by the family of firefighter, John Foster. The family moved into the house in the 1950s, and believes the building is about 60 years old, Foster said.

The house, a two-story, brick building surrounded by woods, has been abandoned for a number of years, and had become a target for neighborhood vandals, Foster said.

After the training exercises were completed and the former family home was gutted by fire -- flames thrusting through the roof and spilling out the white-trimmed windows -- the department ran a controlled burn, letting the fire swallow what was left of the structure.

Anyone with a house which could be donated to the fire department is asked to call headquarters at (770) 473-7833.