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      Abandoned house burns to the ground for fire training

      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.