Training for a new reality: Rural fire departments increasingly rely on each other
OLIVIA — A rural farmhouse in Renville County went up in flames in spectacular fashion Monday night, thanks to the joint effort of four different fire departments.
The fire at the Michael Bruns farmsite east of Olivia was a training exercise for firefighters with the Olivia, Bird Island, Hector and Danube volunteer fire departments, according to Olivia Fire Chief Tim Seehusen. His department hosted the controlled burn.
While its primary purpose was to train new firefighters on strategies and techniques, the opportunity to bring the four departments together was just as important, according to the chief. Rural departments increasingly rely on one another for assistance due to the challenges in keeping a full roster of volunteers.
The Olivia department is authorized for 28 members, but currently has 23, according to the chief.
Training opportunities like the one on Monday gave the firefighters an opportunity to get to know one another, learn about the way each operates and the equipment they use. It helps the departments work more effectively together, he noted.
The training session included several set burns, where firefighters started fires in different rooms and practiced attack and suppression techniques. It got underway at 6 p.m. and around 7:45 p.m. the fire was allowed to grow. Firefighters were able to leave shortly after 10 p.m.
Five tankers were used to haul water to the site during the controlled burn. At one point, the Renville and Buffalo Lake departments were called to bring additional water to the fire as a precaution, but they were turned back. Firefighters on the scene successfully maintained a curtain of water to protect a new house only 37-feet from the burning house.