Hinckley fire fighters host multi-department practice burn

By Chris Studor

With temperatures reaching over 1,000 degrees in a burning home on State Road in Hinckley, firefighters from Hinckley, Richfield, Brunswick Hills, Granger Township and Highland Hills, used their skills in a practice burn providing a real-life scenario which they can draw on when actual fire emergency calls come.

The two-day event consisted of first responders putting out small room and roof-controlled fires on Nov. 5 and returning the next day to restart the fire conducting various drills as the flames progressed through windows, doors, the roof and finally taking the entire home down in flames.

Wiping soot from his brow, Hinckley Fire Chief Jestin Grossenbaugh let a slight smile cross his face as he spoke about how pleased the drill went and how much practice it provide the multi-department firefighters.

“Things are going as scheduled,” said Chief Grossenbaugh. “Having an actual burning building to tackle versus a training building is a big difference. It is something most fire departments seldom get a chance to tackle.”

It wasn’t a simple task to schedule the practice burn, said Brunswick Hills Fire Chief Anthony Strazzo.

“Chief Grossenbaugh and I did a huge amount of leg work to get permission from all the necessary organizations, such as the EPA, utilities and the Cleveland Metroparks,” he said.

Granting the most gracious gesture of permitting the fire departments to burn down their State Road home are property owners Lisa and Jim Dietsche. The couple owned the 70s style home for about two years before they contacted the Hinckley Fire Department to offer it for a practice burn. The couple intends to replace the home with a new prairie-style home in the 11-acre setting, which is surrounded on three sides by the Hinckley Reservation.

Being surrounded by the park was the major selling point for Lisa who actually wrote the realtor a check for the property before the for-sale sign was fully planted.

“I wrote him a check right then and there,” said Lisa. “I loved the setting and look forward to building our new home and happy to offer our local first responders this real life experience.”

The couple watched the entire process along with a crowd of people who came both Friday and Saturday. Early preparations included unloading dozens of wood pallets used to create rooms within rooms for firefighters to practice various techniques. Pitching in to unload an entire semi load of palettes was Hinckley Trustee Melissa Augustine, along with residents Frank Oriti, and firefighters, Shawn Barrett and Matt Marinella.

On Sunday, Trustee Monique Ascherl watched the house burn down with a group of young children who accompanied her.

“This was a firsthand experience for the kids to witness what can happen when you play with matches,” she said. “It only took 30 minutes for the entire structure to burn to the ground.”

All the heavy lifting and firefighting made for some hungry firefighters who noted their appreciation for everyone who donated materials and food during the two-day event, including: Hinckley Roofing, The Home Depot of Brunswick, The Home Depot of Medina, Lodi Lumber Company, Chipotle Mexican Grill of Brunswick, Jimmy Johns of Brunswick and Domino’s Pizza of Brunswick.

During the drill, Hinckley firefighter, Bianca Inman, took a moment to explain her turnout gear, which consisted of a fireproof head-to-toe suit, oxygen tank, flashlight and more. Together, Inman said the equipment “probably weighs in the vicinity of 100-130 pounds.”

Practice burns, even though they are practice, “definitely get your adrenaline going,” said firefighter Anthony Makaryk.

“When called to a fire, initially we arrive with a small crew and the officer in command will do a 360-degree inspection of the site and come up with a game plan,” he said.

Once on scene, first responders must be prepared for anything at anytime, added Grossenbaugh. In fact, Hinckley firefighters joined other departments in a practice drill on Friday in which St. Ambrose School in Brunswick was hosting a mock large-scale carbon monoxide emergency. ∞

Featured Photo: Firefighters facing temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees drifting in their direction skillfully handle water hoses to dose the flaming structure.Photo by Chris Studor