When Bill McAlpin bought a 40-acre lot on Enterprise Court in Lexington, he and his partners weren’t sure what to do with the two-story house on the property. After the house was vandalized and the copper pipes were ripped from its walls, McAlpin came up with a solution — let the fire department burn the house down.
The Lexington Fire Department set fire to the house Thursday, using it to train recruits.
“The recruits get a lot of burns in a metal structure, but that is still not the same as burning in a wood-frame structure,” Battalion Chief Chris Ward said. “So this gives them a little different take on how a fire is actually going to react inside of a house or inside a wooden structure.”
This is the first time in about five years that the department has been able to train with a burning house in Fayette County, Ward said.
“It was kind of nice to find this house that was out in the middle of a 40-acre field with nothing around at all,” Ward said.
Starting early in the morning, 29 recruits took turns going into the house in groups. During their rotations, some of the groups would take a break, while others went from room to room to extinguish flames.
“By the time you get in there and knock the fire down that’s in the room, it’s gotten pretty warm, and they’ve gotten heat-soaked, so it’s not like you can just go in there and stay in there all day,” Ward said. “Not to mention, you’re in there for a limited amount of time because you’ve only got so much air to breathe that’s in the cylinder that you’re wearing.”
During one of the breaks, the firefighters ate lunch courtesy of the owner of the house. McAlpin started cooking a pot of red beans and rice for the group at about 6 a.m., and his wife made brownies.
To help the house burn, the instructors used pallets and hay to kindle one room at a time. At the end of the training, the firefighters stopped fighting and let the house burn to the ground.
The recruits, who graduate Oct. 14, snapped their class picture in front of the house once the flames began licking through the roof.
Before the training, the department removed the shingles, carpet and wires from the house to avoid air-quality problems. Air quality and environmental protection officials checked in multiple times throughout the process to ensure there were no problems.
The property on Enterprise Court, minus one two-story house, is now for sale, zoned as an industrial property.