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This Is Only a Test: Valley Firefighters Practice Near DHMC

  • Lebanon firefighter Jon Copeland mugs for his own camera in front of a burning house during a controlled burn training exercise for the Lebanon, Hartford and Hanover fire departments at the corner of Lahaye Drive and Mount Support Road in Lebanon yesterday morning. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Lebanon firefighter Jon Copeland mugs for his own camera in front of a burning house during a controlled burn training exercise for the Lebanon, Hartford and Hanover fire departments at the corner of Lahaye Drive and Mount Support Road in Lebanon yesterday morning. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Below, a firefighter maneuvers inside the house. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Below, a firefighter maneuvers inside the house. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • The front of a house collapses after the Lebanon, Hartford, and Hanover fire departments burned it down as part of a training exercise at the corner of Lahaye Drive and Mount Support Road in Lebanon, N.H. on Sunday, March 10, 2013.<br/>Valley News - Libby March

    The front of a house collapses after the Lebanon, Hartford, and Hanover fire departments burned it down as part of a training exercise at the corner of Lahaye Drive and Mount Support Road in Lebanon, N.H. on Sunday, March 10, 2013.
    Valley News - Libby March Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lebanon, Hartford and Hanover fire departments deliberately burn down a house as a training exercise. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Lebanon, Hartford and Hanover fire departments deliberately burn down a house as a training exercise. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lebanon firefighter Jon Copeland mugs for his own camera in front of a burning house during a controlled burn training exercise for the Lebanon, Hartford and Hanover fire departments at the corner of Lahaye Drive and Mount Support Road in Lebanon yesterday morning. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • Below, a firefighter maneuvers inside the house. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • The front of a house collapses after the Lebanon, Hartford, and Hanover fire departments burned it down as part of a training exercise at the corner of Lahaye Drive and Mount Support Road in Lebanon, N.H. on Sunday, March 10, 2013.<br/>Valley News - Libby March
  • Lebanon, Hartford and Hanover fire departments deliberately burn down a house as a training exercise. (Valley News - Libby March)

Lebanon — A group of firefighters worked to contain a small blaze on the second story of a shuttered home near Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center yesterday morning.

Then the crew filed out and the building was torched again.

Three full-time fire departments parked their tankers along Mount Support Road and conducted a type of training exercise that only comes around once every few years — a live, controlled burn on an acquired property.

Hartford, Lebanon and Hanover fire departments were on the scene participating in exercises ranging from routine hose-work to ventilation and forceable entry training.

“It’s something that doesn’t come along very often; it’s very dangerous,” said Lebanon Fire Chief Chris Christopoulos. “I don’t particularly feel good about doing them, but it’s a valuable training exercise for our guys.”

The three departments communicate with each other daily, but the opportunity to train together doesn’t come around often. Christopoulos said the last modified training exercise held in an acquired building happened about five years ago.

Luke Harvey, who has been a firefighter in Hartford for nearly two years, described the live burn yesterday as a great chance for the departments to train together.

“That way, when you actually have a real fire, everybody kind of flanks together and works well together,” he said.

Yesterday’s venue, a two-story building sold to DHMC by its former owner, was ignited and subsequently extinguished four times before the entire structure was allowed to burn down to the foundation. Firefighters carried in hay bails and pieces of scrap wood for kindling.

Hanover Fire Captain Michael Hinsley said that live burns happen infrequently because of environmental concerns, and that a building must meet numerous regulations to be considered acceptable for a modified training exercise, which explains why they don’t happen often.

Hinsley described yesterday’s trainees as a “fairly seasoned group,” but he said the biggest benefit of the live burn is the ability to have mid-tier firefighters operating in company office positions.

He pointed out that the chiefs and high-ranking firefighters spent most of the morning helping to run pumps and staying out of the way.

“Not only are we working on honing skills that we use every day, but it’s developing the leadership positions for the people who are going to be replacing the officers,” he said.

Eric James, with the Lebanon department, said it was his second live-burn of an acquired building in six years of firefighting.

He said the training went smoothly and that the first few fires were well controlled, but as the last fire was given free reign of the building, he took a pause from the interview.

“This is going to get going here,” said James. “You might want to watch.”

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.