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Fire helps train firefighters

A small building burned to the ground Monday evening in Oak Harbor. Before it was destroyed, it provided valuable training for local firefighters.

The Oak Harbor Fire Department burned a small white building on SE 8th Avenue located behind Skagit Farmers Supply.

“We’re getting a lot of excellent burns,” said Battalion Chief Ray Merrill. “We’re really getting some great training.”

Approximately 24 firefighters participated in the Monday evening training session. Firefighters came from the Oak Harbor Fire Department and from the Naval Air Station.

The fire was kindled at approximately 6:30 p.m. Firefighters ignited various rooms in the building, then broke up into teams to practice extinguishing blazes.

At around 9 p.m. the building started collapsing. Merrill said firefighters would remain until around midnight to ensure the fire was extinguished.

He said the Oak Harbor Fire Department tries to conduct several training fires a year, and such exercises are beneficial for newer firefighters. Four firefighters recently went through the recruit academy.

Throughout the evening, firefighters’ friends and family were among the onlookers during the training fire.

Prior to becoming a training tool for the fire department, the building was used for storage by Skagit Farmers Supply. Prior to being a storage unit, the building had been a histology lab and was originally a hair salon.

“It isn’t necessary anymore and it’s time for it to go away,” said Ron Muzzall, vice president of the Skagit Farmers Supply board while he and his family watched the training exercise. Skagit Farmers Supply donated the building for the training exercise.

Skagit Farmers Supply Manager Jeff Walker said its a win-win situation for both the fire department and the supply store.

The training exercise provided a cheap way to destroy the building while providing some practice for local firefighters.

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