Norwich brings down the house

Practice burn consumes the former Upper Valley Event Center day camp

NORWICH, VT - A mix of full-time and volunteer firefighters from Norwich, Hartford, Thetford, Hanover, Etna and Lyme got together on Saturday and spent the day carefully burning their way through the building on Route 5 that used to house the Upper Valley Event Center day camp.

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    The donation by the building's owner allowed crews to practice "live burn" firefighting scenarios throughout the structure in a start-stop fashion until the afternoon's `grand finale' when the whole thing was finally allowed to burn right straight to the ground.

    Hanover Chief Martin McMillan said the intensely realistic training environment allows firefighters to see conditions deteriorate in real time and to gauge how smoke moves within a building as heat builds, something that is incredibly important to understand during interior firefighting when crews are constantly assessing whether they can safely stay inside and make headway or whether they need to get out before entire rooms "flash over."

    McMillan noted that unlike in the 1950s, when at least some sections of the building that was burned Saturday appeared to have been built, modern homes and offices contain many more petroleum-based and chemical products, including consumer electronics and yards of plastic-coated wiring, that burn much, much faster and produce more toxic smoke than household furnishings in the past.

What had once been a dentist's office, the Upper Valley Event Center day camp, and more recently apartments was the site of a series of practice burns on Saturday

Fire officers discuss the set up of the different training scenarios

Hartford Deputy Chief Alan Beebe emerges from one of the burning rooms.

A firefighter walks past a blazing davenport inside the first floor during a practice round

When an exterior door opens, the smoke lifts above the floor and allows for just a few feet of visibility inside

Hanover Fire Chief Martin McMillan (right) points out features of one the fire exercises

Hanover Chief McMillan and Norwich Deputy Chief Matt Swett discuss fire tactics

Four large portable tanks held the water shuttled in by fire tanker trucks for the pumpers

Crews took turns training, working from the upper floor all the way down to the basement

Chief officers, including Thetford's Chad Whitcomb, Norwich's Steve Leinoff and Hartford Deputy Chief Alan Beebe kept a close eye on the operation

A group picture as things began to edge out of control

A crew atop Hanover's tower ladder truck made sure embers weren't a threat to The Car Store on the other side of Route 5

Steam rolled off the side of a fire tanker truck that had to be cooled because it was facing the radiant heat from the fire

After the various roofing sections finally crashed to the ground the fire was doused with foam and water but continued to smoke late into the evening

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