Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Students build three-decker model for Worcester firefighter training


'BREAD-AND-BUTTER FIRE'


By Scott J. Croteau TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
scroteau@telegram.com



WORCESTER — City firefighters know the dangers of fighting a three-decker blaze.

There are open channels for fire to shoot up, porches that can fall apart, and other nooks and crevices where fire filters.

The structures are marked by an outdated form of construction known as balloon-framing.

“It is the bread-and-butter fire. It is the type of fire we go to hundreds of times,” Fire Lt. Donald Courtney said.

Those new to the department can now learn about the buildings without donning their firefighting gear.

At the request of Lt. Courtney, the carpentry department at Worcester Technical High School built a scale model of a three-decker for use by the Fire Department.

“It is going to be a great training tool for us to have here in our Training Division for the upcoming recruits,” Deputy Fire Chief Geoffrey Gardell said, his hand running up the side of the roughly 4-foot-tall model. “To be able to see what we are talking about instead of just hearing it.”

A group of students in the carpentry department all took turns working on the project over four weeks. The four students leading the project were Gisel Gomez, Ashleyann Perez, Matt Bergeron and Andrew Ramos.

The students handed the model over today, just as a crew of new fire recruits is about to head into training.

The model is a skeleton of an Arlington Street three-decker that mirrored the three-decker where Firefighter Jon D. Davies Sr. died when the 49 Arlington St. building collapsed Dec. 8. Firefighters gave the students and their teachers plans for the model.

The model will be used as a visual aid for recruits who aren’t familiar with fighting fires in three-deckers.

The balloon-framed homes have spacing that allows for fire to shoot up the sides and into the attic. Veteran firefighters know in these types of fires to check the attic quickly.

“Now I can say to a new recruit the fire started here, why do you think it went here?” Lt. Courtney said.

Joseph Lonergan, head of the school’s carpentry department, said balloon-frame construction was dangerous.

“Once a fire started in a building it would go up like a Roman candle.”

Platform construction took over because it eliminated those long avenues for fire to travel, he said. Balloon-framed houses also have a lot of wood inside the structure, which adds fuel to a fire.

Building the model taught students about construction in the earlier days of New England and why homes changed, carpentry instructor Kevin Letourneau said.

Students learned about fire blocking and safety.

Ms. Gomez, 17, lives in a three-decker and now knows how fire can spread throughout her home. Her crew carefully crafted the model making sure every detail was precise and the measurements correct. She hopes the model helps keep residents and firefighters safe.

“It’s really helpful now for the future firemen who didn’t know about this problem before,” she said.

photo
Worcester Technical High School carpentry students deliver a model of a three-decker to the Worcester Fire Department today. (T&G Staff/RICK CINCLAIR)



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