Mount Airy Fire Department personnel and officials from the surrounding area spent their Saturday battling a blaze.
A plume of smoke could be seen from more than a mile away as a house located at 1573 Forrest Drive in Mount Airy went up in flames. Firefighters from the Mount Airy department and surrounding volunteer fire departments were on hand battling the blaze in the early afternoon hours on Saturday.
However, Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said the fire was not an unforeseen catastrophic event. It was a training mission, a controlled burn affording his department and others the opportunity to practice to better fight fires.
That didn’t make the scene look any less serious, with emergency response vehicles, firefighters, and others on the scene as smoke billowed from the fire, spreading across wide sections of town.
Poindexter said there is no substitute for the training value achieved in fighting a real fire, but there’s also a lot of work which goes into holding such a training event.
The chief said the property owners contacted the department to offer the home up for training. After that, the fire instructors at Surry Community College handle all preparation work, such as ensuring the home is structurally sound and there is no asbestos.
Poindexter noted he tries to hold two such training events each year, and the exercises provide necessary certification opportunities for personnel and help boost the department’s rating with the N.C. Department of Insurance. Holding a good I.S.O. rating from the department helps to keep the homeowners insurance premiums of those served by the department as low as possible.
The Mount Airy Fire Department was the primary department trained on Saturday, said Poindexter. However, the Bannertown Volunteer Fire Department provided an engine truck and personnel. The Franklin Volunteer Fire Department also provided personnel, and Surry County EMS and the Surry County Fire Marshal’s office supported the exercise.
In all, Poindexter said about 30 individuals were trained on Saturday. They were divided into teams. Fires were set in different portions of the home, and the teams attacked the fires just as they would in a real fire emergency.
The vast majority of Mount Airy’s full-time firefighters were present on Saturday, according to the chief.
Though there are obvious costs incurred such as wear and tear on equipment, Poindexter said the value in the training is priceless for those personnel.
“It’s very beneficial to train with a live fire. The benefits outweigh any costs,” explained the chief. “It’s as realistic as you can get.”
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.