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Controlled burn will provide practice for firefighters

Residents shouldn't be alarmed or too curious when they see black smoke billowing from somewhere south of County Road 50 out near Farmington High School Saturday. It's just Farmington firefighters having a little fun.

Most weeks, Farmington firefighters get their practices in small drills behind Fire Station 1 or at a training facility outside the city. This weekend, they'll get to train for a burning house on a burning house.

It's called a controlled burn, and it puts firefighters at the scene of a burning building. The only thing is, they're the ones setting the fires - and putting some out, too, before allowing the building to burn to the ground.

"We're lucky if we can get one every two years or so," Farmington fire chief Tim Pietsch said. "We're really tickled pink about this because our other option is to send the guys to a training facility."

Crews will arrive at the house around 8 a.m. Saturday, but they won't start really getting their burn on until around 9 a.m. Then, over the course of the next few hours, small fires will be set in different locations throughout the house. Firefighters will take turns going in, locating those fires, and putting them out.

Everybody gets a little piece of the action, too. Even Pietsch.

"I'm so excited I'm going to don all my gear and go back in. It's been a few years since I've been in on all the action," he said.

All of the action doesn't just happen inside a burning building, though. Officers set a plan of attack outside a burning building, and that plan often calls for firefighters to go at flames from both the inside - when safe - and the outside. It will be a good training for all of Farmington's firefighters, but Pietsch says the newest ones will likely benefit the most since they've had the least time putting out live fires.

"It's almost as close to the real thing as they can get," Pietsch said.

Pietsch expects the firefighters will do drills through the morning and into the afternoon. They will not burn the house to the ground until mid- to late-afternoon.

"When we're done with the drills, we'll just set a couple of fires in it and let it go," he said.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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