TYRINGHAM -- Firefighter Kyle Pettibone has been waiting six months to tackle his first inferno.
It happened on Saturday. The 19-year-old volunteer firefighter had seen small brush and kitchen fires, but nothing like the fire he'd see at a three-room cottage on Barnes Road off Route 102 in Tyringham.
He was blinded in a room filled with smoke. The fire's heat had Pettibone dripping with sweat within two minutes.
Every firefighter knows fires move quickly, so there is no time to waste.
"This is good practice. It's simulating a real-life situation," Pettibone said after dousing flames.
The cottage was owned by Tyringham resident Sandy Farnham, who no longer had use for the dilapidated structure that was built in 1959. The building carried sentimental value because she and her daughter had both used the cottage for their honeymoons, but she was ready to tear it down.
Instead she offered it to firefighters for training. They eagerly accepted.
Pettibone is one of 10 at the Lee Fire Department -- or about one-fifth of the department -- who had never been tested on a structure fire, according to Lee Assistant Fire Chief Glenn Wilcox.
Other departments were also eager to train rookies and rusty veterans.
"It's a great exercise," Wilcox said. "I don't think Lee has had [a structure fire] for years."
On Saturday morning, a caravan of trucks from fire departments in Otis, Lee and Tyringham made their way to Farnham's cottage.
More than a half-dozen trucks were parked in front of the small cottage.
With an endless stream of smoke billowing out the windows, Tyringham Fire Chief Charles Slater said the firefighters were in no hurry for the grand climax where they'd start a fire that would consume the building.
Identifying a fire in a back room, Slater said, "We're not trying to kill it. We'll let it build, and then knock it down. We're working in cycles."
Firefighters used chain sauces to open holes in the roof to allow the smoke to escape the building. They tested out fire hoses of different sizes.
Matt Larson, 19, joined the Lee Fire Department four months ago, and he also said this was the first time he had come face-to-face with a fire.
How was the practice?
"Exciting, hot, and sweaty," said Larson, who added, "You go in dry and come out soaked."
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