ALBERT LEA, Minn. – Crews responded to a fire on South Shore Drive in Albert Lea on Sunday. Officials tell us the blaze was set intentionally, but it’s not what you might think.
Crews fought the blaze for most of the afternoon, but it was all a part of a training session for the Glenville, Hayfield, and Albert Lea city and township fire departments.
Albert Lea Fire Department Capt., Mark Light was in charge of setting the fire and carrying out the training throughout the day.
Light tells us crews go into the home, light certain rooms of the house on fire using pallets, hay and old lumber from the home.
The more flames the better, says Light since he wants every one of his guys to get a real, true emergency experience.
“You can’t see your hand in front of your face,” he explains, “and you’re doing everything by feel and listening.”
First-hand experience was the main goal of this training session, especially for the rookies in the group.
Nick Jepson is one of the newest firefighters on staff for the Glenville Fire Department and until Sunday, he had never encountered a real house fire.
“When I first went in, it got me going a little bit,” he says as he thinks back to his nerves, “After you get in there and calm down, it’s alright.”
To make the experience even more real, the equipment they used for the training was catered to this specific fire.
Given that the home was in more of a rural setting, the fire trucks they had on scene were specifically designed to carry water from fire hydrants and work in areas that are more challenging for crews.
Capt. Light tells us that the home they burned to the ground was a donation for their efforts.
The homeowners had planned on demolishing the residence and rebuilding on the property, and the firefighters we spoke with say they are grateful to have had the home for their training facility.
Two fires were lit in the home, once the training was complete.
Light started a fire in an upstairs bedroom and in the basement to bring the house to the ground.
Crews remained on scene to make sure the fire was contained and controlled. Some firefighters assisted in spraying down nearby trees to make sure nothing around the home would be damaged.