Burning Down the House

Burning Down the House

The Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Station held a controlled house burning Dec. 29 and 30 at 9919 Logan Drive, near Persimmon Tree Road in Potomac. The events are a valuable training tool for firefighters.

“A lot of these homes are homes that were built back several years ago. What happens is they get sold and then the new buyer can donate the structure to the fire house for a training exercise. There are some tax advantages to doing that,” said Eugene Roesser Jr., spokesman for Cabin John Park. “Somebody buys the property, the house is going to be torn down anyway, and they give it to us as a training exercise. It’s a great way to give us some experience.  Its like real life stuff. It’s the best kind of training you can get.”

Cabin John Park invited firefighters from the Rockville, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, and Germantown stations as well as members of the naval fire station based at the Naval Surface Warfare Center on the Clara Barton Parkway.

During a two day burn, firefighters set controlled fires in a variety of locations inside the house, one at a time, and practice putting them out. The second day the house is “let go” and completely burned, with the firefighters watching from the outside and minding the surrounding brush and other structures. The fires are usually lit using diesel fuel and flares, Roesser said, because gasoline is too explosive.

The fires are carefully controlled and only take place when there is little or no wind and houses are well spaced. Some neighbors still complain about ash or smoke from the burn, Roesser said, but most appreciate the department’s work. “Most people understand that it’s good training for us and if their house goes they hope that we’re going to have that kind of training,” he said.