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Posted on Thu, May 9, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Firefighters: Training on nearly out-of-control barn fire 'extremely valuable'

By Kyle Feldscher

Pittsfield Township firefighters got some intense training action Thursday morning as they worked to control a raging barn fire on Warner Road.

Captain Jeff Foulke said the training exercise in the 6700 block of Warner Road was one of a few sessions the department gets per year working on a nearly out-of-control blaze. While the department has training on a regular basis, it’s not the same as practicing on a real fully engulfed building.

Foulke said the five or six minutes where the barn went from slightly-burned-out-but-standing to being consumed by bright orange flames was the most important part of Thursday's training exercise.

“That’s where the real value comes in,” he said.

The barn was previously damaged during an arson in April 2011. Two teenagers were charged in the fire.

Smoke from the training exercise could be seen for miles around the Ann Arbor area on a clear Thursday morning. Families that lived near the structure gathered to watch the barn and storage sheds nearby go up in flames.

Foulke said the department was practicing what it would need to do if a firefighter were trapped inside a burning building, as well as getting familiar with an out-of-control fire. He said most of the blazes firefighters respond to are contained to small portions of homes and don’t cause total destruction like the barn blaze.

Thinking about the training exercise kept Foulke up the night before the burn. He said he thought a lot about cancelling the exercise after a firefighter died in Westland during a fire at a commercial building Wednesday. However, he said it was important to go ahead with the burn, which had been planned for weeks.

“We’re doing this out of respect for their department, not disrespect,” he said.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Fri, May 10, 2013 : 2:18 p.m.

Really, they needed training for this. It wasn't an industrial fire or electrical fire or chemical fire. See fire manual page 1, extinguish fire with water. How many kittens were stuck in trees while this training went on, does this mean the fire trucks went un-washed. Oh the humanity.


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 1:29 a.m.

To everyone that is upset over the barn being burned, watch the video. According to the video, the barn was donated by the owner to be used in the training burn which helps the owner with the demolition costs. So in other words, whether it was burned or leveled by a bulldozer, the owner was looking to get rid of it. It's not like a group of rogue firefighters decided to light it on fire on a nice Thursday afternoon!


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 1:15 a.m.

Think of how much money could be saved on demolition if all of the fire departments around the area trained on abandoned structures in Detroit...

Kai Petainen

Fri, May 10, 2013 : 12:50 a.m.

usually with a fire, it's not a good circumstance... it's bad news. but... in this case... as it was planned... as such i'll say this... ... those are some pretty sweet photos. nicely done.

Kai Petainen

Fri, May 10, 2013 : 12:54 a.m.

a lot of great shots... but if it wasn't a planned fire... the photo of the two guys having a nice chat while the fire takes place -- would be either comical or disturbing?


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 12:28 a.m.

Hope those guys had adequate respirators -- that's a lot of lead paint to turn into lead fumes! And to Heck with the neighbors, right?


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:10 p.m.

What the hay, what did they learn by watching a barn burn down and do nothing. Oh I'm confused.

Doug Coombe

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 10:41 p.m.

Great photos Melanie!

Matt Cooper

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 9:53 p.m.

To those complaining about the burning of this barn: Were you there? Did you see the condition of the barn prior to burning? Did you see the inside of it? I wasn't there, but it seems to me it's kind of silly to complain about burning a barn when all you know of that barn is the visual images from a video posted on line, without ever having seen what the inside of the barn looks like. 2. As any firefighter can tell you, you don't extinguish a fire by spraying at the flames. You do it by spraying at the base of the flames.

Elaine F. Owsley

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 9:36 p.m.

You folks do such a good job on the photos for these stories, but the repetitious cutlines drive me nuts. By the second one we know where and when and the what would be enough.

Ann English

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 10:24 p.m.

I told myself after awhile that the photos would have been an awful addition if this burn were NOT for the training, if it were NOT controlled. The repetitious captions kept us from forgetting that this was no unintended fire, no arsonist's misdeed.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

To everyone who wanted to save this barn there is a better photo of thE "beautiful", "straight as an arrow", barn at this link. Also, read the other story: "...Two 17-year-olds accused of starting a fire that HEAVILY DAMAGED a vacant barn..."


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 12:40 a.m.

Still looks straight and strong to me. The real value of a historic barn is in the structural timbers. And when a very old barn is standing strong and true, they are almost always still in great shape.

John Counts

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 8:48 p.m.

These kinds of training are invaluably helpful for firefighters. Plenty of departments have told me so in the past. The departments are also always very grateful for the structures that are "donated" to them for the training.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 8:34 p.m.

A Waste of good timber.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 8:27 p.m.

I think too much is being made about "saving " this old barn. For everyone who thought it could have been save because it looked historic, there is someone who probably thought it was an eyesore. As was pointed out in the article firefighters need this kind of training in light of what happened in Westland yesterday and all the other times that a firefighter is lost or injured.


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

"blighted house on Spring Street (south of Felch)" Yep, Joe's old house has been bring down property values there for decades.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:19 p.m.

More than likely the people in those cookie-cutter houses behind the barn were urging it's demise. Pittsfield has always had a thing about replacing farms with subdivisions.

Ann English

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 10:20 p.m.

I can see the advantage of training using a building that is a safe distance from other buildings that are NOT part of the training. Blighted houses are very often too close to occupied buildings, so they're not good training prospects. Notice those firefighters watching the barn fire from their knees? They had nice soft grass to kneel in; I can't imagine them doing that at a blighted house on Spring Street (south of Felch) if it caught fire. Or the blighted house on Bell Street in Ypsilanti. Too close to occupied homes.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 8:25 p.m.

This is hard to stomach. What a beautiful barn, burned to the ground. The roof was still straight and strong. This barn had decades if not centuries of life left. At the very least it could be dismantled and all pieces re-used in other applications. They don't make wood beams like that any more, you CAN'T JUST BURN THEM! AAaarg. Before people jump down my throat saying that fire dept's need real training exercises, I agree completely. There are SO many derelict and defunct houses around that have no remaining value and might as well be burned away. This barn was not such a building. What a shame. Besides, what real training value does a barn fire offer? The structure and hence fire properties are NOTHING like a house fire, which is what 99% of their efforts are for. A wide open barn of century-dried wood certainly goes up fast and burns itself out. There's no saving it, as the video shows. I just don't get it.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 11:16 p.m.

Ross, I agree with you totally. There seems to be a common thread of dismissal of the past nowadays. If it isn't the latest technology or the latest fad, it doesn't matter. Some people just don't seem to value things anymore unless it involves money.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 8:21 p.m.

Wait, what?!? Was this training on how to START a fire? What the...? Your video shows no one actually fighting a fire. At the end they douse the base of the flames on the big barn after it's completely gone. What a waste. Those old growth timbers didn't even succumb to the intense inferno. Amazing. Of course, they are still ruined now.


Fri, May 10, 2013 : 12:15 a.m.

The building was already half burned out from an arson fire, as mentioned in the article. And they were training on how to rescue a trapped fireman inside a fully-involved building, as mentioned in the article. When reading news articles, it is beneficial to... well, read them.

Kyle Feldscher

Thu, May 9, 2013 : 8:09 p.m.

There were other departments that were out on this exercise as well. I spotted Augusta Township and Saline Area Fire Departments. I don't have a full list available so I did not include it in the story.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 8 p.m.

I appreciate their opportunity to train on this barn but the barn looks like it could have been saved. The roof looks good and that is a big part of saving a barn. The roofline is straight as an arrow. I also can appreciate the work that went into building this barn. Often times people would come from miles around to help build a barn, it was a community event. RIP old barn. And yes, I'm sentimental about old barns. They are vanishing fast.


Thu, May 9, 2013 : 7:45 p.m.

Great photos!