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Albany Fire Department burns building for training

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY -- A fire in a building on the 500 block of Mulberry Avenue spewed a smoke plume into the sky visible from most of Albany Friday morning into the afternoon.

It was all under control and part of a plan.

The Albany Fire Department has been burning buildings since January to train firefighters in fire-ignition/detection techniques and to video the training for the benefit of future firefighters.

This time an experiment was added to learn more about effective techniques to keep adjacent buildings from becoming involved.

"We've set up an experiment to see which is the best way to protect neighboring buildings from catching fire," fire Chief James Carswell said. "There are two methods we are using here. We are taking temperature readings and monitoring the methods."

The initial fire began in an abandoned U-shaped, single-story 2,774-square-foot building. It was set to train chief-level firefighters in detecting how an arson fire was started, said Fire Investigator Sam Harris.

As a second training benefit, firefighters, under the direction of Harris, set up a hand hose to keep the fire from spreading to another abandoned, single-story, 2,774-square-foot building adjoining to the east of the fire.

Another hose, a deluge hose that is normally carried on a firetruck's deck, was set up with a fan to the west. Its job was to protect an abandoned, two-story 3,264-square-foot building on the west.

All the buildings were block constructed, but the wooden trusses, roofs and asphalt shingles sent blazing flames and smoke high.

Once temperature and other data are collected, a comparison can be made to see which method came out more efficient, Harris said. The results, like the arson-detection training, will be made available to other fire departments.

"We set the fire right in the center so we could see a burn pattern," Harris said. "That fan should send the heat back to the (burning) building. We are keeping track of temperature changes."

The fire drew several neighborhood residents to watch after firefighters set up around 10 a.m. Standing across the street, a few residents said they thought training to save houses adjacent to a burning home was a good idea.

"It is good that they learn how to put out one fire," said Rosa Kendricks. "It is even better that they learn how to save the house next door."