The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)


May 16, 2014

City officials go inside life of firefighters

Thursday, May 15, 2014 — Albemarle Fire Department invited City Council and Stanly County’s volunteer fire departments to partake in a live fire burn training session at the Old Rock Creek Park Saturday.  

“It made us appreciate our firefighters,” Councilman Dexter Townsend said.

Townsend, who has served on the Council for eight years, said an opportunity to experience a live burn has never been extended.

Townsend, City Manager Ray Allen and council members Bill Aldridge, Benton Dry, Martha Sue Hall and Chris Whitley clothed themselves in the more than 50-pound fire suit before taken into an office soon to be surrounded by fire. Led by firefighters, councilors sat in a corner and an infrared camera was placed in each of their hands.

Through the infrared cameras, council members were able to see past the smoke.

Albemarle Fire Department engineer Shane Palmer said without the infrared cameras a person can’t see anything in a live fire burn because of the thickness of smoke.

“That way they can hold the cameras up, and actually see the fire burning,” Palmer, a 22-year fire fighting veteran, said.

As the materials blazed, the firefighters doused the fiery boxes with water. The process allowed council members to see the sequential stages of a free burn. It also gives them a firsthand experience of the heat and the break down of the smoke.

“When they attack the fire they basically put a little water resulting in a steam conversion,”  Palmer said.

While the council members were in the burning office firefighters gauged their gear at 300-400 degrees. Inside a working fire the temperature can reach an excess of 1,200 degrees.

Palmer said there are three priorities when engaged in a live burn: life-saving, instance stabilization and property saving. The average fire doubles in size every five seconds.

The Old Rock Creek Park office had been vacant since September.

Parks & Recreation Director Toby Thorpe said after talking with City Manager Ray Allen about the disposition of the vacant building they realized it would be less expensive to get the building down that way.

Thorpe said The Old Rock Creek Creek Park office is in the plans to become a  picnic shelter.

To submit story ideas, contact Trenton Little at (704) 982-2121 ext. 33 or email


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