Milford-- Roughly 35 firefighters were called to 109 Wilton Road on Saturday to battle a blaze throughout a single-story home. Fire fighters moved from room to room battling the flames but ultimately the home was consumed.
The house fire was not a tragic loss, but a valuable and rare learning opportunity for local fire fighters to practice their skills. Hitchiner Manufacturing, which owns the home and property at 109 Wilton Road, offered the home to the Milford Fire Department to exercise a controlled burn.
Tim Sullivan, Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Services, said the property is part of the Hitchiner campus and adjacent to their manufacturing facilities. While they have no plans for expansion onto the property in the near-term, the company knew it had no need for a single-family home.
“We offered it to the town fire department for a training burn and they jumped at the opportunity,” said Sullivan. “We were happy to work with the Milford Fire Department. They have provided us with CPR training and have always been very helpful to us.”
Taking full advantage of the property, the Milford Fire Department ran drills through the home in the weeks before the controlled burn.
“Everyone became familiar with the layout of the home, which was part of the preparation,” said Captain Ken Flaherty of the Milford Fire Department. In addition to advance drills, the department created a controlled burn plan. Every room was numbered, teams were assigned to battle fires in specific rooms and a back-up line of fire fighters was assigned in the event of an emergency. Before showing up to the drills on Saturday, each firefighter knew where to go and where to exit.
Around 7 a.m., on March 11, Milford fire fighters gathered at the home with the town’s full fleet of fire engines on the property. For safety reasons, a ladder truck and engine were in service for the town during the drill, parked on the periphery of the property. Burns were ignited throughout the home, including bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, living room and two rooms converted in the garage, using untreated wood pallets and straw.
Also at the burn were members of the local Explorer Post, a group of local high school students between the ages of 16 and 19, who assisted outside the home during the drill. For safety reasons, the Explorers did not participate in battling the controlled burn, but were able to get an up-close look of the drills from outside the home.
“They get first-hand experience after the fire and get to go in and see what a burned building looks like,” said Flaherty.
Milford Fire Department answers roughly 1,200 calls per year. Between 50 and 60 of those calls are building fires. The frequency of fire emergencies in the town emphasizes the importance of the controlled burn. Because hazardous materials like lead and asbestos are often found in homes older than those building the 1980s, an opportunity like this is rare.
“This is valuable training,” said Flaherty.