'Controlled Burn' Conducted in Great Falls

'Controlled Burn' Conducted in Great Falls

A new form of summertime entertainment for children came to Springvale Forest Court in Great Falls last weekend as Fairfax County firefighters executed a controlled burn of a donated structure that was to be demolished.

Neighbors had been notified earlier, so some families spent the day watching a succession of smaller training fires that began at 8 a.m. on Sunday, June 29.

The structure was demolished in one large fire early in the afternoon.

“The firemen were so good about explaining everything,” said Joanne

Cerretani, a neighbor arrived at 8 a.m. with her husband and their three children to watch.

“We were also using it as an example [to show them] how fast things can happen with matches. It was a good example for the six-year old,” Cerretani said.

“The amount of heat was pretty impressive. And the vortex of water -- the pressure was so great [from the fire].”

“There were burnt leaves in our front yard; [that’s] pretty impressive for such a small structure.”

said Cerretani.

Like many residents of Great Falls, Cerretani said she didn’t realized until after she moved into her house nine years ago that there were no fire hydrants north of Georgetown Pike. “We are fairly far away, down in the woods. It’s a scary thought when you think about it,” she said.

IN COMMUNITIES like Great Falls, Gunston, and Clifton where there is no source of public water, firemen use water from a tanker truck or nearby sources like swimming pools and ponds, storing the water in “pits” and pumping it to the blaze.

“Basically, those pits become your fire hydrant,” explained Lt. Todd Marshall, one of the supervisors for the training exercise.

“We got about six excellent training fires out of the structure,” Marshall said, with about 30 new firefighters participating.

One of them, Giovanni Vasquez, is still in the first year of probation after training as a recruit.

“What I learned today is you cannot see like you think you can see,” he said.

“In an actual fire, there is zero visibility. You have to rely on your other senses -- especially your hearing” to track the progress of the blaze.

Marshall said the firefighters followed national guidelines for training fires, setting them with wood from donated pallets and bales of hay.

“We use a rescue dummy,” he said. “They actually find a ‘victim’ and take it to an ambulance.”

The donor of the house receives a tax deduction for allowing its use by the fire department, Marshall said.