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Linden VFD burns house in exercise

For once a house going up in smoke was a good thing in Linden. After several minutes of billowing smoke rising above the city Saturday morning, causing people to venture out to see what was burning, flames quickly engulfed a vacant house at 402 Brandon Street in Linden.

The situation was part of a live training exercise to help the city’s volunteer firefighters get acclimated to fighting fires.

About 12 volunteer firefighters took part in the exercise, which gave the firemen a chance to work on firefighting techniques at a deliberate pace.

“We can simulate these all day long, but a live fire is the best way to train,” said Linden fire chief James Creel. “It’s the best way to train our people to be ready for the real thing.”

The firefighters treated the exercise as if it were an actual event, responding with a pumper fire truck and rescue vehicle.

Creel said the Linden Fire Department tries to do the live simulations as often as possible, but such training exercises are dependent on house donors.

“Property owners will sometimes donate an old house they want to remove. It’s a great way to clear the property of dilapidated structures and gives us a great chance to train,” said Creel. “We may get to burn a house about four times a year. This one was the last one we will be able to do until next year.”

Saturday’s exercise not only gave veteran firefighter a chance to refresh their skills, but also served as an introduction for new members.

“We have one new firefighters who had a chance to get his first taste of fighting a fire,” said Creel.

Creel said the department responds to handful of house fires each year – the majority of which occur during the holiday season and winter months.

“We do see more fires when the weather starts turning cold and people start using heaters,” said Creel. “We also see a lot of kitchen fires. It doesn’t take but just a second or two for a grease fire to flare up and get out of control.”

Creel did say that he has seen a reduction of house fires over the past few years, a trend he contributes to fire prevention education through the area schools.

Each October, Creel leads an effort to reach elementary students and teach them ways they can prevent fire hazards.

“Fire Prevention Week in the schools has been a great tool in fighting fires before they ever get started,” said Creel. “Through this weeklong emphasis on fire safety we are able to reach families and tell them what hazards to look for in their home, ways to stay alert when a fire first breaks out – like with a smoke detector, and what to do during a fire.”