JEFFERSON — It was like a scene straight off the pages of Fahrenheit 451.
Dozens of firefighters raided a house on U.S. 129 on Saturday and then set fire to the building while even more emergency workers stood around outside watching the blaze.
But unlike Ray Bradbury’s characters, these firefighters weren’t on a search and destroy mission seeking out illegal books. Instead, they were going through a special training exercise.
“We’ll light one small fire so that the (trainees) can see the different phases of a fire and the instructors will also go over the different layers of smoke and the proper techniques for putting out a fire,” said Darrell Chaisson, a captain with the Jefferson Fire Department.
“Later in the day, we’ll light a two-room fire to teach more advanced fire fighting skills.”
In addition to the Jefferson Fire Department, there were also representatives from the North Jackson, Plainview, Jackson County Correctional Institute, Hall County, Barrow County and Harrisburg fire departments.
The training took place at a vacant, two-story home near the Pendergrass city limits.
“We were very fortunate to have this home donated to us. If we’re lucky, we get to have a live burn training session like this one every two years or so,” Chaisson said.
Outside of finding a property owner willing to donate their empty home, Chaisson said organizing a live training session like the one that took place is further complicated by the fact that the fire department must first get clearance from the Environmental Protection Division and comply with various national standards in order for participants to get credit for going through the training course.
All Georgia firefighters are required to have a minimum of eight hours worth of training each month.
At the end of the training day — which began at 7 a.m. and wrapped up around 5 p.m. — more than 50 firefighters from Northeast Georgia had the opportunity to get additional training, on top of what they’ve already received in classroom settings.
Although participants knew that at the end of the 10-hour day the home would be burned to the ground, so there was no reason to try and save the structure, that didn’t stop participants from using the same safety precautions that they would have if they were on an actual call.
“There’s nothing that will be done in there that can’t be done safely. No matter what position you have at your department, today you are a firefighter like everyone else. Your instructor is in charge, so leave your ego outside,” said Malcolm Gramley, a firefighter with the Jefferson Fire Department, to the assemblage during a briefing before the activities began.
“Nobody goes home hurt tonight — treat this just like any other house fire.”
In addition to learning the about the different phases of a fire, Saturday’s participants also got experience using a thermal imaging camera to help find victims in instances where it was too dark to see and received additional instruction on the proper way to extinguish a fire by using a zigzag spraying motion.
“I’ve been a volunteer firefighter for around two years, but this is the first time that I’ve been able to participate in a live burn training course,” said Johnny Yearwood, a firefighter with the North Jackson Fire Department.
“They put a lot of effort in bringing us all together and we learn a lot of things out here that they can’t really teach in a classroom.”