RANTOUL — Some area firefighters who were sharpening their fire suppression skills Saturday got a little extra bang for their buck when a fire flared more than they anticipated.
Rantoul Fire Chief Ken Waters said several area departments had been setting and putting out fires on the first floor of one of the 16 vacant buildings in the 1400 block of Hobson Drive on the village's north side since about 7 a.m. Saturday.
The last group was headed out about 5 p.m. when a firefighter noticed people stopping on the road and looking. He turned around and saw flames shooting several feet into the air, Waters said.
"They had something go up the plumbing wall and it got into the attic. It happens sometimes," Waters said of the training exercises. "When we got here, we tried to put it out but the building wasn't safe so we made the decision to let it burn to the ground."
Firefighters were at the training site until after 9 p.m. They planned to bring in a backhoe to push in the brick walls so there would be no imminent danger.
Waters estimated the buildings have been vacant two or three years. He said the last owner gave them to the village about a year ago. The village has allowed area fire departments to use the two-story buildings for training.
"We've had a lot of good training since March for more than 20 departments," Waters said.
Each building has eight units and the plan is to have them all burned within the next three years, he said.
Waters said controlled burns of another four buildings are also scheduled for June 2 and 3.