Firefighters to train at abandoned house

PLYMOUTH — A home scheduled to be demolished is providing a unique opportunity for area firefighters.
The Marshall County Health Department condemned a home at 4170 Lilac Road near Plymouth, according to Jerry Fussell of the Health Department, and rather than just tear it down, it’s been offered to the LaPaz Fire Department to use for training.
“(The house) is in a decaying state,” explained Fussell. “We cannot contact the owner anymore; we have no way to get in contact with them.”
Fussell further explained that the building was bought at tax sale and the Health Department believes the owner has since left the country and abandoned the home.
“This is a good opportunity to help the fire department — it’s good training for them and a good way for us to get rid of a hazard,” said Fussell.
Chris Oginsky, assistant chief at the LaPaz Fire Department, said that firefighters don’t get opportunities like this one often.
“We normally (practice) search and rescue at the fire house, but with a house we’ve never been in, that’s good practical skills for the guys,” said Oginsky. “Houses like this usually don’t come around so often. A lot of our training normally is simulated, we have computer systems (firefighters) can utilize, but the hands on training is definitely the best.”
Oginsky added that two new firefighters recently joined the department, and “they will definitely be utilizing the house.”
Homeowners in the area of the abandoned building can expect to get letters about the training day, which is set for Dec. 15.
“There’s a good chance homeowners will see a lot of smoke that day,” noted Oginsky.
“We are going to run a few training scenarios like search and rescue, and get some hands on experience with our new thermal camera,” said Oginsky, adding that the department will probably set a few controlled fires.
The thermal camera is used to locate victims trapped in burning buildings. The LaPaz Fire Department was able to purchase the camera through a grant from the Marshall County Community Foundation.
The “victim” that firefighters will attempt to save will be a mannequin — used just in case the fire gets out of hand.
“Typically we don’t put a live victim in there,” said Oginsky. “But if the fire does start getting out of control, it may be a situation where we let the fire build and just burn (the building) down, we are not going to risk anyone trying to save it.”
Oginsky added that he plans to invite other area fire departments to participate in the training opportunity.