The house had been donated to the department for training by Cheryl and Ron Baer, who live next door. It had been vacant for several years since Cheryl’s dad, Thomas McLain, passed away.
Not wanting to sell or rent the old house, Cheryl Baer thought about having it torn down so the land would go fallow. Then she thought, “I wonder if the fire department would burn it down for me as a training exercise.”
Capt. Sean Boggess agreed that the house would be an excellent structure for training if certain requirements were met, such as making sure it was free of asbestos. The process has taken a few years, but in December 2012, training started. The Fire Department has been conducting exercises in the house by blacking out the windows and pumping in smoke to simulate actual conditions. The house is scheduled to be burned in March.
Capt. Marshall Conner, Station 13-C, Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services, has been Baer’s contact person and has been enthusiastic about the “real life” training offered by this opportunity.
“We have buildings built for training, but they don’t offer the unexpected situations that arise from fighting a fire in a real house,” he said. “After you train in the same place a few times, you know where the walls, doors, windows, etc., are. In real life, when you go into a strange house that is full of smoke, you have to rely on all your senses and all your training to get you out of danger. We love having a new place to train.”
Baer has enjoyed watching the training and said that others in the county should consider donating abandoned buildings to the fire department.
“I know my dad would be very pleased that I’ve donated the house for training,” she said. “He wouldn’t want to see the house just rotting and falling down, but being useful to the brave firefighters of the county.”