Biloxi Fire Department burns vacant home to train recruits

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - If you were in Biloxi Wednesday, you may have noticed a large plume of smoke coming from just north of downtown. A house was burning to the ground, but it wasn't an accident.

The fire department was there, but they weren't trying to put out the flames. This was because they actually lit the fire, on purpose.

"Our main goal today is to burn the house down as safely as possible while protecting all of the surroundings, especially this house to the north," said Deputy Chief of Training, John Jennings.

Jennings said this house was recently donated to the fire department.

Over the past two weeks, the vacant building has served as a training ground for new hires. The structure had become too damaged to continue, so rather than tearing it down, they burned it.

"It's excellent training that we can't get anywhere else."

Many of the firemen were glad to have this rare training opportunity. Deputy Chief of Operations, Jeff Merrill says this type of training didn't used to be so hard to find.

"Years ago, we used to do this a lot, but with environmental issues and, you know, different laws, we don't get to, you know, we don't get to do things like this like we used to," said Merrill.

This house was different because it met all of the criteria set by the EPA. With this type of training being less frequent, Chief Joe Boney said this one served a larger purpose. He said he wanted the people of Biloxi to feel a sense of confidence.

"I hope it says that we're training to do the best that we can, you know, we want good trained, quality, professional people," said Boney.

The neighborhood was ready to see it go. It had been virtually untouched since Katrina and was starting to attract squatters. Although the burn made for a good show, fire department officials warned "Don't try this at home."

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