MUSCATINE, Iowa – The Muscatine Fire Department will be conducting a training burn on Saturday, March 25, 2017, at the former Beach Lumber Company on Hershey Avenue. The training session will close that portion of Hershey Avenue from Ash to Green Streets for most of the day.
“This is an opportunity to facilitate interagency cooperation and conduct hands-on training in a more controlled environment that we would have at an actual fire,” Muscatine Fire Department Captain Gary Ronzheimer said.
Ronzheimer is coordinating the training session that will involve between 70-80 firefighters from throughout the area. The main building closest to the street and a garage on the property will be used in the training session but several other outbuildings will not be used.
“Safety is our primary concern, for the firefighters, for the equipment, and for the public,” Ronzheimer said. “Hershey Avenue will be blocked off starting at 7 a.m. and the training fire will begin at approximately 1 p.m.”
Local residents and local businesses will have access to their homes and businesses until the time of the fire. The area will be cleared and a space for residents to view the training fire will be established at the intersection of Green Street and Hershey Avenue.
The fire department distributed door knockers this week to alert residents in the surrounding neighborhood of the upcoming training exercise.
“Weather conditions will play a large part in how the smoke moves up and out from the fire,” Ronzheimer said. “Anyone that lives in the area and could be affected by the smoke should find somewhere else to be until the burn is completed.”
Muscatine Fire Department will also have units standing by in case embers from the fire would spread and cause unintended fires.
“We are ready for any contingency,” Ronzheimer said. “The weather should prevent the spread of the embers but you have to be ready for any possibility.”
Detour for the training exercise will be the same as the flood detour with signage posted around the affected area to direct motorists. Traffic will be diverted to Main Street, to West Eighth Street, and to Iowa Avenue.
“Safety is the main reason for the street closure,” Ronzheimer said. “We want to make sure of the safety for our firefighters, for our equipment, and for the public.”
The hydrants that will be used in the training burn are located on the opposite side of Hershey Avenue which means the fire departments big five-inch lines will be running across the roadway.
“We do not need to have those lines damages or cause what is called a water hammer,” Ronzheimer said. “That is when the line, which has water moving at a high rate of speed, is closed off and forcing the water pressure back toward the hydrant and water lines where a lot of damage can occur.”
The Fire Department conducts training almost every day but a training burn does not occur that often.
“We do a lot of training in other areas such as HAZMAT but it is at least a couple of years or more between training burns like the exercise we have this weekend,” Ronzheimer said. “This is great experience for our younger firefighters and volunteers to gain the experience they will need in the event of an actual fire.”
Instructors for the training exercise come from the Blue Grass, Durant, Muscatine, and West Liberty Fire Departments among others.
Beach Lumber Company consists of eight buildings and sits on 3.5 acres of land near the Mississippi River. The property was owned by Carver Riverfront Real Estate, Inc., prior to being donated to the City of Muscatine by the Carver family. The location is adjacent to the site of a former Carver Pump factory. That area was acquired and cleared by the City of Muscatine in 1999.