‘A young man’s game’

Training exercise keeps firefighters on alert

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery

ROCKINGHAM — Larry Harrelson has been a firefighter for 27 years. In a week, he’s calling it quits.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Firefighters stand near Engine 2 during a training exercise Saturday morning on South Brookwood Avenue in Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Firefighters stand near Engine 2 during a training exercise Saturday morning on South Brookwood Avenue in Rockingham.

Before he leaves, though, he and Rockingham Fire Chief Charles Gardner — who himself is retiring next month after 31 years with the city, including the last 11 as chief — want to ensure the next group of firefighters and leaders are ready to step up. Volunteers from the Ellerbe Fire Department also participated in the exercise.

“It’s a young man’s game,” said Harrelson who, at age 49, has decided his aching knees have better things to do than to be called out at 2 a.m. or a weekend morning.

On Saturday morning, 17 firefighters surrounded a single-story brick house on South Brookwood Avenue, located off East Washington Street, for a training exercise that doubled as an inexpensive way to remove a dilapidated building.

The home had been vacant for at least four years. Neighbor Rosalind McLendon-McDonald, for one, was glad to see it go. The home had been listed for sale — $500 down, $240 per month — for an undetermined amount of time. She and her daughter, Riley, 4, opened their front door shortly after 8 a.m. and noticed the fire trucks, hoses and firefighters right outside.

Firefighters worked to keep power lines and nearby trees wet and cool so as to avoid collateral damage. There was none. The smoke plume went straight up on a windless day.

McLendon-McDonald said she’d complained to city officials “for years” about the vacant property as she was concerned it would become a home for rodents, vagrants and mischief.

“Do I need to move my vehicle,” she asked a firefighter.

No, he said.

“What about soot?”

Shouldn’t be an issue, he assured her.

And the training exercise, once started, went out without a hitch. To be sure, there were likely lessons learned even in a somewhat relaxed atmosphere of a controlled burn that doesn’t have the sense of urgency an emergency situation offers.

The only hiccup to the day’s plan was, Gardner said, the house itself. The home had a basement, and the floor wasn’t solid enough for his firefighters to go in to fight the blaze from the inside.

“Not worth the risk,” said the firefighting veteran.

 

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Public safety

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