Rocky Fork Enterprise

Homes will be used for monthlong fire training

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Ten houses along Hamilton Road in Gahanna will be used for local fire training beginning this weekend.

The houses are being demolished to make way for the the Shops at Rocky Fork.

Training opportunities will take place under the supervision of the Mifflin Township Fire Department as firefighters take advantage of Ranger Development's need to demolish the homes.

Structural training will be conducted throughout the next month, according to Melissa Rapp, Mifflin Township's public-information officer. She said the training would be conducted primarily on weekends, beginning the weekend of June 28-29 and continuing through the last weekend in July, starting with the northernmost structures.

Firefighters will perform an extensive list of safety, rescue and escape drills and will set controlled fires in one room at a time before the final burning and extinguishing of the house.

The training will involve only one house per day, Rapp said.

The houses slated for destruction include 390 Rocky Fork Drive South and 361, 353, 345, 331, 325, 317, 311, 303 and 297 S. Hamilton Road.

"These hands-on, live training evolutions are an invaluable opportunity for the fire departments," Fire Chief Timothy Taylor said. "They give us a chance to practice a variety of drills in a safe, controlled environment, without having to incur the cost of creating a structure for the sole purpose of destroying it.

"Our firefighters do all the work needed to prepare the house for a variety of scenarios, and we even have materials donated to stage the houses for the exercises."

The majority of the training activity will be hands-on exercises that occur out of the public eye. Residents might see fire vehicles in driveways, or small amounts of theatrical smoke could be used.

No disruption is expected to normal neighborhood activities, according to Rapp.

Live smoke and fire training, amounting to about 10 percent of the training, will be on the weekends only and will involve one structure per day.

Care will be taken to avoid disrupting traffic, Rapp said. Only the far west lane of Hamilton Road will be utilized for staging fire equipment and only as necessary.

During training times, Rapp said, the public is asked to maintain a safe distance, and a public viewing area will be established for the protection of residents and firefighters.

All training will be conducted between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., weather-permitting. No fires will occur on days when the weather would produce smoke low to the ground or when winds would blow smoke directly into neighboring homes or businesses.

The Mifflin Fire Department also will coordinate use of the structures for training with numerous other agencies, including the Columbus Division of Fire, the Jefferson Township Fire Department, Plain Township Fire Department and Columbus State Community College, which offers an EMS/fire science program.

Mifflin will provide a standby crew and command staff at all training involving smoke and live fires.

"It is rare we are given an opportunity of this magnitude for our fire personnel to gain valuable hands-on experience, hone their skills and train with the division's equipment," Taylor said. "But it goes beyond that. It's invaluable training for the entire region and should give residents an even stronger sense of confidence that their community fire department will be ready for them should they need them."

The Gahanna Planning Commission on March 26 approved a final development plan, certificate of appropriateness and variance application for the the Shops at Rocky Fork. The final development plan includes 12 parcels on 3.555 acres at 295-361 S. Hamilton Road for redevelopment from single-family residences to a neighborhood, commercial mixed-use district.

The project consists of three buildings having a total 27,012 square feet.

Three access points include one full access at Rocky Fork South, one at the north portion of the project on Hamilton Road and one right-in, right-out access slightly south of the midpoint of the project.

Landscaping will include 47 trees, 15 railed landscape planters designed for the tree lawn, a 10-foot planting bed along the western edge of the property that abuts residential, a 6-foot vinyl fence to screen residences and a 10-foot buffer to screen the residences to the north and to the west of the project on Rocky Fork South.

A three-foot hedge and evergreen trees will be planted to screen two drive-thrus from Hamilton Road and Rocky Fork South.

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