I remember a drill night when we had a barn to burn. I was the Fire Chief and Kevin Mahle was the Assistant Chief. Kevin was in charge of of the drill. The barn was on Radio Drive, just south of Tower. I arrived at the drill site around 6:15 pm. Kevin and Tom Richardson was there.
The barn was set back on the property with a hen house that had been converted into an office, just to the southeast. There was a well house to the east of the barn and the house was south of both of these structures. Obviously, these structures has to be protected. Because of the proximity of these building to the barn, I was very concerned.
By this time, Ambulance 2269 had showed up with a crew. Greg Jorvig was on the rig. Greg has our new video camera and was going to video tape the drill. We all gathered around and I questioned Kevin on where he planned on getting water from, since there were no hydrants in the area. He said he was going to use a hydrant off Lake Road. I asked if he was going to have any mutual aid tanker coming and he said he was not, and added, “We are going to burn it slow.”
I was still concerned, as it was drill night for a number of the departments in the area. I told Kevin I was going to call Lower St. Croix and Newport to see if they could send a tanker up…just in case. They both said they would send one. The rest of the department arrived; Kvein briefed them on the drill. They laid out hose lines and we filled our one and only folded tank. With everything in place, Tom Richardson and another firefighter went to light a fire in the northwest corner, on the upper level of the barn. So far – so good!
To everyone’s surprise, the barn went up like a torch! Tom and the other firefighter almost didn’t make it out of the barn. Within what seemed like seconds, flames were lapping at teh eves on the house. In my head, I could see the news deadlines in the morning paper, “Woodbury Fire Department Loses Entire Farmstead During Training Fire.”
You could not see the crews on the hose lines strung between the barn, hen house, well house and house. They were completely covered by a thick blanket of smoke rolling off the barn. They were lying on the ground with fog patterns wide open trying to protect themselves and the structures. My chief’s car was somewhere lost in the smoke. I immediately called the dispather and asked them to have Newport and Lower St. Croix respond Code 3. I has them start East Couty Line and Oakdale Code 3 to the scene. The police blocked off Radio Drive. The crews stood their ground, the tankers arrived and when all the excitement was over, we had accomplished our goal: burn the barn, save the structions.
Unbeknownst to me, before Tom lit the barn, Greg Jorvig, along with the video camera, had gone back to the 260 station. Upon returning, he noticed the large column of fire in the southern sky. Greg started filming and is heard saying, “yeah, right…burn it slow” on the video.
In the end, this turned out to be a very good drill experience for everyone. We all got a good taste of heat, smoke and practuiveal firefighting training and working with mutual aid companies. And everyone worked together to get the job done. Needless to say, I was pretty proud of everyone that night.
~ Dick Stehura