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Practice burn costs W’bago

By Staff | Nov 21, 2010

Practice makes perfect. And, at times it may prove to be costly.

The Winnebago Fire Department found that out in January.

At its Nov. 9 meeting, the City Council approved paying a bill totaling $2,500.

The amount is the city’s deductible portion for insurance with the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust.

The expense is the result of the local fire department’s “practice burn” causing damage to a nearby house owned by John and Pam Flitter.

City Administrator Austin Bleess says total damage to the residence was $3,585.

Bleess says when he started his job in June he became aware the two insurance companies involved in the case had reached an agreement regarding liability issues.

On Jan. 16, the vacant Basey Methodist Church at the intersection of County Roads 14 and 1 was set on fire for training purposes.

Participating in the exercise were some 15 firefighters from Winnebago, six firefighters from Truman and six instructors from a South Central College branch.

Fire Chief Dave Hurn says high winds caused heat from the fire to melt vinyl siding on the house.

“I wasn’t made aware of it until three days later. It kind of threw me for a loop,” he says. “The house was far enough away that we didn’t think there was a threat. No other structures were in danger.”

No firefighters or any in the house were injured, says Hurn.

Conditions that morning may have been less than ideal, the temperature was bitterly cold, it was snowing and windy.

But, Hurn says training must be conducted whenever they can, even in adverse weather.

“If you have a fire and it’s snowing, blowing and 30 below, we’re still going to come to your house,” he says.

Whenever there’s a “practice burn,” Hurn says nearby property owners who might be impacted are notified.

“It was just one of those things. It’s not an isolated thing, I’m sure it has happened to other fire departments. I guess it goes with the terrority,” he says.

The Flitters, agree, saying what happened was an accident. In fact, having lived by the church for 18 years they were sadden when it was burned down.

Pam says her husband and 10-year-old daughter were upstairs watching when they realized something wasn’t right.

“It was getting hotter and hotter inside the house. We couldn’t even stand close to the windows or touch them because they were getting so hot,” she says.