Residents aim to put out fires

Neighbors say vehicle burn training is a quality of life concern

When Carl and Julie Kirk moved into their Glenmont home three years ago, they knew full well that firefighters would be training right down the street.

It's hard to miss the four-story fire tower at the Kevin M. Shea Fire Training Facility, after all, or the squads of volunteers meeting several times a week to practice fighting fires, maneuvering trucks or rappelling off the structure. These things haven't really bothered the Kirks, the couple said, but there is one training exercise they wish would go away: vehicle burns.

When we bought this home we realized there was a fire school there, but we did not realize the extent of the cars of they're burning, Carl Kirk said. "We understand that they have to practice, but we need to find ways that they can practice without impacting the community."

The Kirks recently brought to Bethlehem leaders their concerns about what they feel is potentially harmful smoke blowing onto their property from the burns. They said several of their neighbors have similar concerns about the burning of vehicles.

The town's five volunteer fire departments all share the fire training facility, which is owned by the town. They all pay $3,000 each every year into a fund that covers upkeep.

James Kerr, president of the Bethlehem Volunteer Fire Officers Association, said this is the first time in his 34 years with the Delmar Fire Department he's aware of a complaint being lodged against operations at the training facility.

"This is the first time that I know of that this has become the issue that it's become," he said.

Kirk said there have been around 30 car burnings this year, including a recent school bus burning. Kerr said he thinks that number is lower but did not immediately have an exact figure.

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