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Students assist in controlled burn

Father and daughter team join firefighting training exercise


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Don Gilman / Mainstream
Douglas County firefighters discussed the training exercise while the controlled fire blazes in the background.

The possibility of a fellow classmate walking to their preferable phone booth and stepping out as Superman may never cross anyone’s mind. However, two UCC students did jump off a fire truck Saturday, April 6, outfitted and ready to battle a blaze of superman proportions.

The fire was a controlled burn of the dilapidated Days Creek Store done as a training exercise.

Kyle J. Ward, a fire science student and chief of the Days Creek fire department, was part of the controlled burn which involved departments from Myrtle Creek, Tri-City, Canyonville-South Umpqua, Milo and Tiller.

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Freddy Gompf / Mainstream

 Douglas Forest Protective Association also worked the river pump for water access, with help from Douglas County Public Works which provided one of their water trucks.

Ward was finally where he wanted to be with a fire situation to command and a crew working together to get the job done.

“After being laid off from longtime employment as a certified building inspector due to a suffering economy, I had to do a lot of soul searching to figure out where my life was going to go. Finally, my wife brought it up to my attention that UCC has a fire science program where I could possibly fulfill the requirements to be a fire investigator, so I decided to reinvent myself and pursue a degree in Fire Science, and while I was at it, join the local fire department,” Ward said.

Ward helped oversee the actions of about 50 firefighters including emergency medical service personnel. He was also responsible for the equipment used in the burn.

Ward’s youngest daughter, 19-year-old Coral Ward, joined the exercise. Coral is a UCC student majoring in wildlife biology research as well as an emergency medical responder.¬† She learned how to keep the buildings nearby cool from Assistant Chief Kevin Hemphill and crew member Ivo Bierkens. She also helped keep the firefighters hydrated with water and Gatorade.

Ivo Bierkens assisted Coral Ward at a controlled burn in Days Creek
Freddy Gompf / Mainstream
Ivo Bierkens assisted Coral Ward at a controlled burn in Days Creek

“At first I wasn’t excited about working with my father thinking he would be harder on me because I should know the fire procedures. However I was wrong; the whole fire department is like a big family. If someone is having trouble, we all group up to help including both my parents who are on the department,” Coral said.

Part of that family, group effort involved razing the building, moving it away from power lines and preventing outlining structures from getting damaged. The firefighters focused on protecting the post office to the south and the residential area located east as well as the power lines to the north and west along Tiller Trail Highway.

After all precautionary measures had been taken, the burn was ignited at approximately 8:15 a.m. The firefighters finally stabilized the fire at 2:00 p.m.

Chief Ward stayed on the scene a total of 16 hours with the fire truck making sure the burn operation was carried out safely. Broken and ripped up rubble remnants were still burning on Monday evening. The flames were finally put out Tuesday morning by county crews that filled the basement of the store with gravel.

“As far as training burns go, this one was remarkably without incident. We had access to well over 10,000 gallons readily available with a nearly infinite supply at our water supply point,” Chief Ward said.

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    Don Gilman / Mainstream
  • Fire
    Don Gilman / Mainstream
  • Fire
    Don Gilman / Mainstream
  • Days Creek Fire Chief Kyle Ward instructs his crew
    Freddy Gompf / Mainstream