Firefighters intentionally burned down a derelict house in Masset on Sunday to clear the property and get some valuable training.
“It was pretty intense,” says Sylvan Daugert, chief of the Masset Volunteer Fire Department.
At one point, the fire grew so hot the flames spiraled at its core. One firefighter got what felt like a sunburn just from resting nearby without a mask.
Daugert said the house at 1262 McBride Street was vacant for at least 15 years before the current owner asked the Masset village council if firefighters could torch it as a training exercise.
After a safety inspection of the site, which is bordered by empty lots on either side, firefighters okayed it for a controlled burn once the owner had cut back some of the surrounding salmonberry bushes and other brush.
High winds forced the firefighters to cancel an earlier attempt in December, but when the burn went ahead on Jan. 3, the exercise drew a total of 17 firefighters and two pumper trucks from both the Masset and Old Massett volunteer fire departments.
“The biggest thing is communication,” said Daugert, especially when multiple fire departments answer a single call.
For this exercise, firefighters took the opportunity to route water from a hydrant through both the Masset and Old Massett pumper trucks — an unusual, but sometimes necessary move that requires close attention to keep up the water pressure in the hoses.
“I think everybody learned a lot,” said Daugert, adding that they all worked closely to fight the fire defensively, meaning they kept hoses trained on the surrounding trees at all times to prevent the fire from spreading.
After a similar controlled burn and a real trailer fire in the last two years, Daugert said the majority of volunteers in the department now have firsthand experience of what it’s like to suit up and fight a real house fire.