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County to conduct live burn for training

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- Residents who see smoke coming from the area of Brown Bridge Road on Saturday shouldn't panic -- it will likely be the Newton County Fire Service conducting a live fire training exercise.

The fire department will be doing training at a house located at 10811 Brown Bridge Road that is prone to flooding. The property was purchased through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency following the 2009 flood, which caused extensive damage to the home.

FEMA offered land acquisition grants to all property owners in flood prone areas who suffered damage to 50 percent or more of their homes, according to Jody Nolan with the Newton County Emergency Management Agency. Two Newton County homeowners accepted the offer, including the owners of the Brown Bridge Road home, Nolan said. The grant stipulates that the property can be used only for greenspace.

But before the home is destroyed, it will help strengthen the skills of local firefighters. Training will begin at about 8 a.m. Several small fires will be started in the structure early in the day before the home is burned to the ground in the afternoon.

"We're bringing in volunteers and guys without much experience and starting small fires to teach the basics of fire development and progression, how fire behaves and reacts to the environment and ventilation," said Deputy Fire Chief Kevin O'Brien. "We'll be showing our newer volunteers or younger career guys different techniques to extinguish fires and search and rescue efforts in real live smoke and heat."

Typically, the department conducts such training in burn facilities to do the training required by the state.

"Those buildings are good experience, but they are 100 percent contained and we know when, how and where everything is taking place," said O'Brien, adding that this scenario will be much more true to life.

O'Brien said the fire department frequently gets calls from property owners willing to have decrepit houses used for training but that requires environmental testing that is usually too pricey. The federal grant paid for all required environmental tests for the Brown Bridge Road home.

Residents within a 500-foot radius are being notified via mail of the planned burn. Those with concerns or questions should call 770-784-2116 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.