Firefighters get real-life training with a planned fire in Lane County

The South Lane County Fire and Rescue Service was already on the scene Wednesday morning when the first wisps of smoke began pouring from the eaves of a house in Creswell. The fire, unlike most, was started by the department as a burn to learn drill to train firefighters.

“It’s something we don’t do very often,” said Joe Raade, division manager at South Lane Fire and Rescue. “It gives us the opportunity to get real fire training.”

It has been four or five years since the district last had a house burn down, Raade said. The department was preparing to burn down a house on Greenwood Street when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and forced a delay. More than two years later, after months of prepping the property with additional Sheetrock and reducing hazardous materials, the Greenwood home was ready to burn.

“The owner had to make reductions to make burning safer for the environment,” he said. “It also makes it safer for our crews.”

Firefighters gather on the lawn of a Greenwood Street home in Creswell on March 30 while participating in a burn-to-learn drill with South Lane County Fire and Rescue.

The department spent Wednesday setting fires and putting out the flames before burning down the house shortly after 2 p.m.

More than 30 staff from the South Lane, North Douglas, Elkton, Kellogg and Oakland districts were on hand for the training, according to Raade.

South Lane Fire Captain Travis Hansen said live fire trainings provide valuable experience, especially for firefighters who may not have been in a home fire situation before.

“Feeling that heat on you – you can’t really fake it any other way – so live fire practice is really valuable,” he said. “It’s really important, especially for our new people.”

Flames leap from a house along Greenwood Street in Creswell as a firefighter wets foliage during a burn to learn drill organized by South Lane Fire and Rescue on March 30.

Hansen added that since most district duty calls are medical, the chances of fighting fires are less common.

North Douglas Fire and EMS Fire Chief Ike Shannon agreed.

“They’re harder to find,” he said. “We’re ready to do whatever it takes to get there.”

Shannon said it also gave her department the opportunity to train with surrounding districts and learn how they operate.

Raymond Clowers, from Creswell, watches the house he grew up in and returned to until it was sold several years ago burnt down in a burn to learn the drill set up by South Lane Fire and Rescue.  The building was donated to the department by the current owner of the land, Dale Riddle.

The Greenwood Street house was donated to firefighters by owner Dale Riddle, whose daughter and son-in-law, Shelbea and Bryant Lane, built a new home on the property.

Riddle said he heard about the idea of ​​donating the house from a friend and thought it sounded like an interesting opportunity.

Riddle was among the small crowd of community members who gathered along the line of fire to watch the house burn. Also watching was Raymond Clowers, who said he lived in the house as a child before returning for around a decade before it was sold several years ago.

“It’s really sad to see it go,” he said, watching the smoke billow from the building.

Ben Lonergan is a visual reporter with The Register-Guard. He can be reached at [email protected].


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Richard V. Johnson