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Allerton Apartments Provides One Last Service

Posted Nov. 5, 2012
enter photo description
The Kent Fire Department is making use of cleared-out
buildings at the Allerton Apartment complex for field-training
exercises, also known as live burns.

The Allerton Apartment complex at Kent State provided one last service to the Kent community prior to demolition of the retired buildings. On Oct. 10, the Kent Fire Department started conducting field-training exercises, known as “live burns,” in the cleared-out buildings.

“By the good grace of Kent State University, we’ve been able to use these buildings that will provide invaluable training and a chance to fight live fire,” says Lt. Dave Moore of the Kent Fire Department. “This is a good environment to conduct good training.”

Todd Shaffer, construction manager for Kent State University, says when a fire department sets a predetermined fire to combustible materials, such as wood and straw, that’s a “live burn.” With the help of an accelerant like gasoline, the fire gives firefighters the experience of coming into contact with real fire conditions, such as heat and smoke. They control the rate of burn and have a safety crew standing by to extinguish if needed. A live burn is held in an abandoned building to mimic real-life scenarios and surroundings. The Allerton Apartment complex represents hotel and residence  hall scenarios.

“This is an opportunity for staff and the university to offer another learning opportunity to the community and help the fire department train and be safer,” Shaffer says. “The fire department contacted me about burning vacant buildings six or seven years ago. We tried to fill out the paperwork, but it was too restricted. I contacted them about the Allerton Apartments, and this time it worked out.”

Moore says that there are several guidelines, especially for safety, that must be met prior to conducting this type of training. Due to policies of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are, at times, “lots of hoops to jump through.” Moore gratefully notes the university was able to handle the paperwork so the fire department could focus primarily on safety guidelines.

“We have safety standards, strictly from the fire department and the fire service, that we must meet that are primarily for the safety of our firefighters,” Moore says. “We start off with walkthroughs before moving into the live burns. We also do accountability checks before and after every training exercise.”

Though the training exercises are controlled and take place in a controlled environment, safety is of upmost importance not only to the firefighters but to the surrounding areas as well. Due to the location of Allerton Apartments, smoke from the fires is not likely to travel to nearby neighborhoods; however, the control and reduction of the smoke is still a top priority.

“One of our main goals is to follow as many guidelines and procedures so that we will be allowed to burn again,” notes Moore. “It was gracious enough for Kent State to allow us to do this, and we don’t want to negatively affect anyone.”

The live burn training exercises are scheduled to take place over several weeks.