Durham Fire Department uses abandoned Duke housing for fire training exercises

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – If you happen to see some smoke or even some burning buildings near Duke University in the coming days, do not be alarmed.

Over the next several months, the Durham Fire Department will be setting the old Central Campus apartments on fire so they can conduct fire training exercises.

Through an agreement with Duke University, the Durham Fire Department plans to burn down a total of 12 apartment buildings over the next four to six months.

Willie Hall, assistant chief of the training division for the Durham Fire Department, said that this will give firefighters a chance to practice fighting fires in multifamily residence settings.

“We get to stretch lines a little bit differently than what our normal house fires are that we go to,” Hall said. “We have these happen, but we don’t get as many of them, it’s not as frequent for us.”

Hall said this will allow them to hone their skills in different areas which include incident command, hose advancement, ladder evolutions, forcible entry, search and rescue techniques, ventilation, and fire extinguishment.

“It’s really like anything else if you don’t practice it, you get rusty,” Hall said. “It just helps us hone our skills and stay as efficient as we possibly can and be as effective for the residents that we protect.”

University officials said the Central Campus apartment buildings have been vacant since last spring and the plan is to tear them down and turn the area into a parking lot or a field.

“Everything is going to be demolished,” said Hector Hernandez, the project manager for Duke University. “It just works out that they need something to train with, and we have the buildings to do it with.”

Hall said all of the department’s 400-plus firefighters will be participating in the trainings over the next several months.

“This is actually like once in a career opportunity, to have this many buildings and this much opportunity for us to be able to train our whole department,” Hall said. “We’re very fortunate and we’re very thankful that Duke has allowed us this opportunity.

University officials said that people should not be concerned about the smoke in the area.

Hernandez said that all the asbestos inside the building has been removed and that that the training has been approved by the EPA.

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