Campus house used for arson training

By Marc Thomas

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Fire trucks lined a section of Transcript Avenue on Tuesday morning as firefighters waited to set an unoccupied campus house ablaze.

The house, which sits on the 200 block of Transcript Avenue between two other unoccupied campus properties, became the guinea pig for aspiring arson investigators from the Kentucky Fire School.

Fire crews did not burn the quaint, white house to the ground, but rather started small fires on sofas, a mattress and children’s toys throughout the house and let the students determine if the blaze was an arson case or not.

After the controlled burn, students will scrutinize charred rubble, which could be the result of different types of fires.

“There will probably be a mixture of incendiary and accidental, that way they investigate both,” said Danny Eads, Kentucky Fire Commission Instructor.

Instructors set four different fires and asked students to determine the origin and cause of each fire.

Depending on the outcome of their investigations, students will take findings to either a civil or criminal trial with a jury, judge, defense and prosecuting attorney at the Federal Courthouse in Lexington.

Fire crews were on hand to jump in and put out the fires before they became out of control.

“We’re planning this ahead before they even light a match or whatever the source of ignition will be, there will be fire fighters standing here with orange hose lines and everything else ready to go,” said Harold Hoskins, Assistant Chief of the Lexington Fire Department. “When the fire has achieved its status for students to have something to investigate, then we’ll call a crew in and they’ll extinguish the fire just like we would any other time.”

A tour throughout the house revealed some of the dangers that fire crews often face. One of those dangers is locating exits while inside of a burning building.

In this training exercise, the exits can be located by a bright orange “X” sprayed on the ground in front of each door and window within the house. Also, “NFPA 1403” was marked around the house.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, NFPA 1403, which is the standard on live fire training evolutions, specifies minimum requirements for managing live fire training by ensuring safety in the training facility. In addition to safety, it addresses water supply, fire behavior, fire extinguishers and ventilation.

“It’s standard every time we do a live burn. It’s all based on safety. We have to mark our exits, which are windows and doors with an orange “X” marking on the floor,” said Danny Eads, Kentucky Fire Commission Instructor.

James Kanavy, Scott County Fire Department assistant chief, applauded UK for allowing fire officials from throughout the state to use their property.

“We give a big handoff to the University of Kentucky for letting us do it here. Sometimes, we’ve had to go out of county and it makes logistics of getting students from Lexington to another county very hard,” Kanavy said.