BAYFIELD – Upper Pine River Fire Protection District burned an abandoned house – on purpose – Thursday behind Pine Valley Church on County Road 501.
Pine Valley Church worked with Upper Pine to coordinate the burn. The Bayfield church owns more than 70 acres next to the church building, and one day, it hopes to build a multipurpose event center on the land. The burn served as both a training exercise for the fire crew and the next chapter in the church’s future plans for the property.
“We definitely have future dreams and plans for the entire 74 acres adjacent to the church,” said Scott Kujath, Pine Valley Church pastor. “The first part of that is to clean up what’s out there.”
Kujath said it’s not the first time the house was used for training – the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office conducted a few trainings in its empty frame over the years. This one, of course, is the last. The house was engulfed in flames about 30 minutes after firefighters ignited it with a burning torch and piles of pallets.
“We’ll just watch to make sure it doesn’t spread,” said Roy Vreeland, deputy chief with Upper Pine. Crews planned to check on the area into Thursday night to ensure the burn went according to plan.
The crews mainly worked defensively during the burn. Their primary duty was to monitor the fire and make sure a tree next to the house did not topple into a nearby power line.
As part of a water supply training, the Upper Pine crew had to run trucks to a nearby hydrant and bring back water.
In the past, fire departments would use derelict buildings to do interior training sessions four or five times a year. Safety regulations have made the process more complicated, Vreeland said.
Meeting those regulations is a long process. Church staff began preparing the house to be burned about three years ago. The church checked for and removed asbestos to meet regulations. It also cleared materials like nails, windows and carpets ahead of the burn.
“I think it’s a win-win for the fire department and for us,” Kujath said before going out to watch the fire with other church members. “They’re going to get some training ... and we’re able to get rid of it.”