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Use of home for fire training worries some
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Residents on Mill Hill Road, in the Strathy Hall subdivision in Richmond Hill, met with members of the Bryan County Fire Department at 1185 Mill Hill Road to discuss potential live fire training using the structure.

Some residents voiced their concern, saying that burning down a house in their neighborhood could create safety hazards. Some were there to get more information on how the practice fire would affect them.

"Most of the residents were supportive of the project once we explained it," said South Bryan County Fire Chief Mike Smith, who is heading the drill.

The large two-story house is being donated to the department by land owner Johnny Murphy. Murphy plans to eventually subdivide the lot and build two homes on the waterfront property.

Smith explained to the residents that the department must first pass a number of clearances with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division and Air Quality Control before burning the house becomes a reality.

This process is currently underway. He said weather conditions also have to be just right before burning.

In the event the live fire training does not occur, Smith said other forms of firefighter training will still take place at the residence. "We’d still do ladder and ventilation training and stuff that we wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do – like climb the house and cut holes in the roof," he said.

Some of the concerns discussed by residents included not receiving notification of this particular meeting and potential for the fire or smoke to spread.

"It’s all too common for citizens to have questions and concerns regarding something like this," Smith said. "We still have time to meet and talk with everyone. We have a good fire department, and we don’t want to endanger anyone. I’ve burned about 50 houses in training during my 36 years as a firefighter, and I can tell you this is a rare opportunity to train these men to better protect this area."

"I’m very nervous about it," said Mary Worsham. "There are so many trees near the residence. Also, my husband has asthma so he won’t be able to go outside during all this."

Brianne Yontz, who lives two houses down from the planned site, is also concerned about the smoke.

"While training is a good thing, I’m very concerned about the smoke this could generate," Yontz said. "Even when people burn leaves, I get a headache and my allergies act up. I just think they can get training without burning a home in a residential area."

"I don’t have a major problem with it," said David Aspinwall, who lives next to Yontz. "It’s good for fire volunteers to get practice. Some neighbors have expressed concern with smoke or the fire spreading, but hopefully it will be contained. My only concern is that it may upset some residents around here."

Smith said the weekly training will probably begin each Tuesday near the end of December, and all the neighbors on that street will receive proper notice.

If anyone has questions regarding this issue, you can call Smith at 313-5898.

- by Ross Blair

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