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Fire training ties up traffic

June 08, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A house fire deliberately set by firefighters to use for training caused a traffic backup in both directions on Lincoln Way East Saturday during the late morning and mid-afternoon hours.

Around noon, the eastbound lane on U.S. 30 was slowed to nearly a halt as drivers crept by the controlled house fire and fleet of fire trucks next to Dice's Tire Shop at 1421 Lincoln Way East.

Firefighters joked that traffic is usually slow on the highway on Saturdays, but that "rubberneckers" driving by the scene were making it worse.

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"I'm surprised we haven't gotten any complaints yet," said Gary Himes, assistant fire chief with Franklin Fire Department.

Smoke from the house fire could be seen for miles.

The training began at 8 a.m. and continued until 4 p.m. for volunteer firefighters who, in crews of four, took turns knocking down the fires set in different rooms of the vacant two-story white stone home.

The fires were set using wooden pallets and straw.

"It's hard for us to find houses like this," Himes said.

The Dice family, owners of the tire shop next door, allowed the fire departments to burn the home before they had it demolished to make room for construction of a warehouse, Himes said.

Blackened by smoke and soot and soaked in water and sweat, firefighters coming out of the burning home said the training experience is close to what they'd find at a real house fire.

"You're always scared. It's always in the back of your mind," said Jason Strite, a volunteer with Franklin Fire Department.

"You can never get enough training," added Tim McAfee, also with Franklin.

The fire departments plan to set the house on fire again next Saturday to continue training, Himes said.

Firefighters from Franklin, New Franklin, Marion, Fayetteville and Chambersburg Fire Departments participated in the training. The Franklin County Air Unit also took part.

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