Abandoned house burns to the ground for fire training

The Ottumwa Fire Department supervises a controlled burn on East Main Monday.

It was hard not to miss the big plume of black smoke rising from Ottumwa early Monday afternoon, but the fire was a controlled one.

The Ottumwa Fire Department burned down an abandoned house on East Main for training purposes. About 13 crew members from the OFD participated. A few of the newer members have little to no experience with structure fires and the controlled burn is a good way for the veterans to brush up on their skills as well.

The tower out at the Indian Hills campus is a good training tool, but requires bringing in outside material like hay or wood to start a fire. Burning an actual house is the best hands-on experience.

"Here, this is the real deal, this was a grocery store, this was a live-in residence up above, so all our combustibles -- shingles, the wood, sheeting, everything is here," said Assistant Fire Chief Rick Kleinman. "So this is a lot more realistic and therefore, you can run through a lot more different scenarios here."

Firefighters were able to use a cellar nozzle early in the fire, which is a tool Kleinman said he hasn't been able to see in action in over 20 years at the fire department.

The OFD holds this type of training about twice a year.