Burning Down the House


From the: “You are Never too Old to Stop Complaining and Learn Something Series”

Last Thursday evening I watched Carleton Place’s Ocean Wave Fire Company roar down Lake Avenue to yet another ‘practice burn’ at the empty green house on Beckwith Street. I shook my head, as this was the day after the deadly New Jersey Boardwalk fire and I thought having a ‘burn house’ so close to the downtown was incredibly stupid. In fact, when they rushed back at 5 am for another crack at the house I was ready to walk down to the fire station on Coleman Street and give them a piece of my mind.

After a few days I cooled down and wondered why a fire department that has been in Carleton Place since 1875 could be so careless. It turns out the stupidity was on my part. Apparently these 24 dedicated volunteers and 2 full-time fire prevention officers know what they are doing. It is imperative for a fire department to be able to practice and train on life-saving techniques before you have to implement them. Some municipalities have ‘burn towers’, but for anything approaching reality, you need an actual house which is formally called a ‘live burn.”
In some cities it is considered too dangerous to be done on purpose. Some fire departments fill their burn house with smoke and old furniture and practice all the other techniques – rescue searches, breaching walls/ceilings, saving their own, ventilation and salvage and overhaul. Basically, they trash the place. Our local fire department gets to practice on a real structure, the neighborhood gets a show and the homeowner saves on demolition and hauling charges if they donate their home.

A house burn is absolutely the best possible training a fireman can get. They will torch a room, put it out, lather-rinse-repeat until they run out of rooms like they are doing on Beckwith Street. Did you know today’s homesburn 8 times faster because of new construction materials, especially engineered wood? Thirty years ago a family had approximately 8 minutes to exit their home – today it’s 2 minutes.

I also found out that our grandparents were a lot “greener” than today. Recently the Underwriter’s Laboratories of Canada did testing on home furnishings and found out that today’s average-sized room furnished with modern products can become engulfed in flames in 3 minutes, compared to 30 minutes 50 years ago.

So after my research I had to agree that having a ‘burn house’ is important to Carleton Place. Better to practice on an empty house than one filled with sleeping parents and a scared child hiding under the bed.

Photos- 1 and 3– Linda Seccaspina

             2-Jennifer Fenwick Irwin


About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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