, Salem, MA

March 26, 2013

Firefighters hone their skills

Training exercise held at vacant home in Danvers


---- — DANVERS — The Danvers Fire Department conducted a training exercise yesterday at 56 River St., a vacant home slated to be demolished to make way for an 11-unit condominium development.

Since Wednesday, the department has been setting fires in a 55-gallon drum on the second floor of the house, giving firefighters the opportunity to train in a real-world setting. Yesterday morning, it was Group 4’s turn to enter the simulated burning home.

Just getting through the front door, with their bulky gear on, tugging a heavy hose, posed a problem.

“This is an obstacle that you don’t often run into,” fire Chief Kevin Farrell explained as the crews prepared to enter. “These guys are going to try and come in this door to try and attack this fire. And they are going to go upstairs. Watch what happens.”

Farrell opened the door, and it hit the first step of the narrow staircase, opening up just halfway.

Upstairs, they could smell smoke and see soot on the wall throughout the second floor. In one second-floor bedroom lay Rescue Randy, a 175-pound dummy dressed in a Superman costume meant to simulate a victim asleep in bed.

Before the training began, Capt. Robert Pyburn schooled firefighters on ways to avoid “flashover,” a dangerous condition in which everything combustible in a room bursts into flame. Pyburn told firefighters to shoot several quick shots of water straight into the ceiling, a technique called “penciling.”

“It delays flashover,” Pyburn said.

Tagging along with the exercise was Selectman Keith Lucy. Last week at a budget hearing, Farrell invited selectmen to observe the training up-close, and Lucy took him up on the offer. He learned how to hook up a supply line to a fire hydrant; donned a self-contained breathing apparatus, known as a Scott Pack; and even manned a hose during the second exercise. Lucy, who entered the simulated burning home twice, was stunned by the lack of visibility on the second floor.

“You can’t see anything,” he said after emerging from the home, drenched in sweat, but none the worse for wear. “You go in there, you see the first floor, you see the stairs, everything. You take two steps up the stairs — black.”

Farrell said that at one point he had to grab Lucy and pull him along before Lucy could calm himself, get his bearings and continue.

“You didn’t do too bad,” Farrell told Lucy.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.