Why Beavercreek Twp. set an old farmhouse on fire … on purpose

A dilapidated old farmhouse on Hilltop Road in Beavercreek Twp. was the site Friday for a series of experiments in research on the risks to someone inside a burning home and how to improve firefighting.

The location was one of four homes for the live-fire demonstrations where firefighters from the township and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base helped researchers with the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute and the Illinois Fire Service Institute.

This was “a unique training experience” as data was collected during a “coordinated fire attack,” said Beavercreek Twp. Fire Chief David Vandenbos.

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“Our crews go in and apply water and ventilation just like we would on a normal house fire while the folks at UL are monitoring the temperature and atmospheric conditions to determine how effective our operations are,” Vandenbos said.

The abandoned home that was slated for demolition was outfitted with cameras and instruments that gauged air temperature and toxic gases before and after the fire, which was intentionally sparked in an upstairs bedroom.

ULFSRI and IFSI will use the results from the experiments to advance their education and training programs that are used by fire crews around the world.

“We’re trying to understand how different ventilation techniques and tactics, water suppression on the fire, how that might affect the conditions for any occupants who are still within the structure,” said Gavin Horn, director of research at the IFSI. “We’re trying to understand how to fight fires more effectively and more efficiently … but we also need to critically understand the people who might still be in there. If we put the fire out faster and that changes the gases within the structure and changes the thermal conditions … that might increase the risks for burns and some of the gases that they might be exposed to, particularly carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, two of the most important in terms of exposure to occupants.”

Horn said there’s an advantage to doing live-fire experiments in a real home as opposed to a training tower made of concrete and steel.

“Training structures don’t look like what we have out here,” he said. “These are absolutely realistic scenarios that give us the best data that we have for understanding not only firefighting tactics but the fire victim risks and their exposure they might have from the fire.”

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Beavercreek Twp. Battalion Chief David Young led the effort to coordinate the unique event.

“Our department has already improved our methods by learning from the studies of UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute. To have UL FSRI come to our township to continue that research is a big honort,” Young said. “Having the chance to be part of improving firefighter safety through research is an incredible opportunity.”


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