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Training burn provides unique opportunity for TVF and R firefighters

On Jan. 27, 25 firefighters conducted training exercises at a home on Chapman Road.

GAZETTE PHOTO: RAY PITZ  - Firefighters keep an eye on a garage as it goes up on Jan. 27 on Chapman Road. The former stables to the right were hosed down to keep them from starting on fire.Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Firefighters on Friday got a chance to participate in what has become a rarer and rarer experience – conducting a live fire training session in an unoccupied home.

On Friday, about 25 firefighters from various district stations gathered in front of a 1950s-era home on Chapman Road for a training scenario that included firefighters practicing their skills after setting small fires in the house and detached garage, according to Stefan Myers, a TVF&R public information officer.

At the same time, the participants were able to test new nozzles and hoses to see if they were good investments for the fire district.

In addition, it gave district officials a chance to test their water supply in a rural situation.

"It's a crucial link for fighting fires in our rural populations in which there is no hydrants and we have to take water with us to protect houses," said Myers.

For that, the fire district relies on such equipment as a nearby 2,800-gallon water tender, he pointed out, adding that had it been a real situation, firefighters would have refilled it from a hydrant at the Sherwood YMCA.

For training purposes, Myers said video cameras were placed inside and outside the home to help new firefighters hone their skills.

GAZETTE PHOTO: RAY PITZ  - TVF&R Training Officer Julie Ellenson smiles while watching a successful Jan. 27 training exercise where firefighters set a house and garage on fire  about one-third of a mile up Chapman Road from Highway 99W. Later, Myers said the training exercise proved helpful in the fact that one of the test hoses proved superior to another, knocking down the flames in half the time as the other.

After practicing on the spot fires in the two-bedroom ranch home, firefighters set their sights on the aging garage, using a propane torch to ignite wooden pallets and hay. The garage went up fairly quickly.

Nearby, Jamie and Tom McCleskey watched the scenario with their children.

Until recently, Jamie's parents, Frank and Judy Diliberto owned 21 acres of property that included the unoccupied home. The Dilibertos ran Double D Stables on the property before recently selling their property and moving to Bend.

The McCleskeys plan to build a home on one acre of the property while Jamie's parents' home and its five acres will be sold. The remaining 15 acres were sold to Garrette Custom Homes.

Jamie McCleskey said she knew firefighters often don't get the opportunity to engage in live firefighting scenarios and coordinated with Ken Wallberg of Garrette Custom Homes to get the ball rolling. Before long, they were in touch with TVF&R Training Officer Julie Ellenson who helped arrange the training.

"We just thought it was kind of neat because the fire department doesn't get to do (live house fire) training much," said Jamie McCleskey.GAZETTE PHOTO: RAY PITZ  - This garage and adjacent home were believed to have been built in the 1950s. The property owners allowed firefighters to train at the site and remove the structure by letting it burn down.

Myers said the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has a burn boundary limiting what type of structures can be ignited. Luckily, the Chapman Road structure was outside that boundary and the current weather situation provided for a low-fire risk for training purposes.

Once the garage went up, a final "terminal burn" was allowed to occur in the adjacent house as well.

As the flames consumed the latter structure, Tom McCleskey said the whole scenario was "pretty impressive" and praised the firefighters involved.

"I'm glad they got to do this," said Jamie McCleskey, pointing out that the firefighters even allowed her children to try out one of the hoses. "They're the nicest bunch of people we've met."GAZETTE PHOTO: RAY PITZ  - After the garage burned down, left, the adjacent home was set ablaze as well and came down relatively quickly on Jan. 27.