Rantoul site to help in training area firefighters

RANTOUL — Firefighters from Rantoul and area departments will begin training this weekend at a former apartment complex that is earmarked for demolition.

Rantoul Fire Chief Ken Waters said the firefighters will do "room and content burns" beginning Saturday at Autumn Glen apartments on North Hobson Drive, next to North Maplewood Drive.

"Four departments (Rantoul, Thomasboro, Gifford and Ludlow) will be there," Waters said. "They will get one room apiece or two apiece, depending on how many they want to use."

The instruction, which will stretch over two months, is being conducted by the Rantoul Fire Department in conjunction with the University of Illinois Fire Service Institute, which is in charge of the classes and training scenarios. Urbana Fire Chief Mike Dilley, who is head of investigations for the fire services in Champaign County, will set up the scenarios in some of the apartments to be burned so that his investigative team will be able to get realistic training.

Wood pallets, straw and paper will be brought in to be burned.

The rooms will be allowed to burn and "flash over, and then we'll go put them out," Waters said, adding that the rooms will be left intact once the fires are out.

Next weekend, the investigative team from each department will examine the burned rooms. People will be brought in to pose as neighbors and will tell investigators what they saw.

"They'll dig out the scene and see how it started, where it started," Waters said.

Additional training will take place in April and May.

The village agreed to take ownership of the property last year. The goal is to clean up the site, which consists of 16 apartment buildings containing eight apartments each.

Eventually the buildings will be burned to the ground, probably in June.

Waters said residents of neighboring Abbott Acres will be notified.

"There will be a big sign up there to let people know it's training," Waters said.

For the June burn, Abbott Acres residents will receive hand-delivered notes notifying them of the action.

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