Some South Redondo residents started Friday afternoon at the unmistakable smell and appearance of a large fire emanating from a vacant housing complex on Catalina Ave. and Ave. A.
But to their relief, the half-dozen fire trucks and dozens of firefighters occupying the uninhabited lot were there for a special training opportunity, and not to battle a dangerous fire.
First Light Development, LLC is preparing to demolish the buildings onsite to make room for new development. First Light Superintendent Dwayne Smith, also the assistant manager for this particular project, granted the Redondo Beach Fire Department permission to light controlled fires inside the buildings that are facing face an imminent demise. Against these fires, they tested their skills.
“We light the fire in the corner and it gets going good, and we literally pull in just like we would for the real fire,” RBFD Division Chief Paul Lepore said. “We go in and pull out all the drywall to make sure the fire’s not hiding in there, and we put the fire out.”
The RBFD invited colleagues from other Beach Cities departments to join them in taking advantage of the opportunity.
“It’s such a rare occasion that we get to do something like this that we invite our neighbors from El Segundo, Manhattan, Torrance, and Hermosa,” Lepore said.
“We invite them to come because when we have a big incident, they’re part of our team, as well.”
To ensure participants are safe during training, the carpet is removed and buildings stripped of particular hazards.
“We follow the National Fire Protection Association,” Lepore explained. “There’s a standard on what you do when you burn. There’s a large checklist — everything from asbestos abatement to getting permits. It’s a long process in order to burn. You can’t just come in and light a fire.”
Similar exercises will be conducted at the same complex from 9 a.m. throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29.