A home with a long history lent its bones to local fire departments for a live burn training exercise recently.
The old home, located on Dockery Road in Rockingham, served as a two-week training ground for fire departments from throughout Richmond County.
Northside Volunteer Fire Department, East Rockingham Fire Department and Mountain Creek Fire Department were all present during an exercise last Saturday, according to Northside Fire Chief Edward Causey. Also participating was Ellerbe Fire Department, which trained in the house on Aug. 9, and the Richmond County SWAT team, which trained on the following Friday.
During the live burn, Causey said firefighters practiced search-and-rescue techniques as they would during a real house fire.
“They had to go in and search to make sure nobody was trapped in the house,” the fire chief said.
Rescue Randy, a dummy borrowed from Hamlet Fire and Rescue, was also placed inside the house during the training exercise.
“We placed him upstairs and they searched the house and found him,” said Causey. “They had to figure out a way to get him out safely, so they used the windows and ladder to their advantage like they would a real person.”
Causey said firefighters also had to cut holes in the walls to get from room to room.
The new fire chief was promoted in July, and has been with the department since November 1992. According to him, the two-story house was a rare opportunity for a training exercise.
“Every so often we get a live burn,” Causey said, “but I think that’s the first time we’ve had a two-story house to train in since I’ve been in the fire department … There are so many spots under the stairways where people can hide, being scared. Normally, it’s just a single story, like a big square. With this house, they had to go up and down the stairs to check and make sure they’d gotten everything.”
The house’s previous owner, 68-year-old Vic Goodman Jr., said the house was built in three sections, beginning as early as the 1920s.
“It was a nice place to live because it was an open area with a view in all directions,” Goodman said, adding that one of the sections was once home to an officer stationed at Camp Mackall during World War II.
The house came into the possession of the state last year, Goodman said, when the NC Department of Transportation reclaimed several areas to be used for the impending Highway 73 bypass expansion plan. The house was then given to local fire departments by the state as a training location.
During the burn last Saturday, Goodman said he stayed for most of the training. Also on the scene were the board members of Northside Volunteer Fire Department and Ladies Auxiliary.
“It was kind of sad to see a well-built structure like that having to be burned,” said Goodman, “but the state had taken it from us a year or so ago, so I’ve had some time to think it through and realize it was no longer mine. Even though it was a big part of my life, it was one of those things that you just had to accept. But it had a lot of memories and there was some local history involved in the house. It was a different construction than today’s houses and meant a lot to me.”
Goodman said the fire departments and Richmond County Sheriff’s Office were all able to make good use of it during their training.
“They said it was a good opportunity for them … ,” Goodman said, “…that they didn’t get to train much in two-story houses and houses that were clean. They felt like it was excellent training.”
Northside Volunteer Fire Department said FirstHealth EMS also remained on standby during the burns.
“I want to thank all of the ones that came out on Saturday and used the house to their advantage,” Causey said. “The fire department would also like to thank Bill Honeycutt and Mr. Covington of Food King in Ellerbe for donating food.”
— Staff Writer Mallory Brown can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 16, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.