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Testing to Begin at New CVTC Outdoor Burn Area

Area near Presto to be used for firefighter training and product testing

Tuesday, August 15, 2017
Photo of Testing to Begin at New CVTC Outdoor Burn Area

Chris Turner of the CVTC Fire Safety Center staff, wearing protective gear, attacks a flammable liquids fire during a demonstration at CVTC’s new outdoor burn area Monday, Aug. 14. The pan used for the demonstration was only about half the size of the pans that will be used during firefighter training and product testing exercises at the site.

People who see a brief plume of black smoke rising from an area south of Melby Street on Eau Claire’s north side shouldn’t be alarmed that something is wrong, according to Gerald “Red” Van Ert, coordinator of the Fire Safety Center at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC). In fact, something positive will be going on, starting the week of August 14.

A new CVTC outdoor burn area is located on a large cleared section of wooded land the college is leasing from National Presto Industries. Van Ert said the area will be used for firefighter training by CVTC students and area fire departments, and also for the testing of fire suppression equipment manufactured by private companies.

“The outdoor burn area will make our local fire departments and firefighters better prepared to deal with certain types of fires, such as fires fueled by flammable liquids,” Van Ert said. “At the same time, the burn area will benefit businesses from all over Wisconsin and neighboring states that need to test products in an outdoor setting.”

One of those companies is Rusoh, Inc., a subsidiary of Presto, which will be testing products starting Tuesday, Aug. 15.

“What CVTC brings is expertise in fire suppression and testing to UL standards,” said Daniel Stewart, Rusoh project manager. “That’s why we partnered with them.”

CVTC previously had an outdoor burn area at its West Campus. However, in recent years housing developments being built close to the campus led CVTC to look for other alternatives, though no neighbors had complained about any CVTC activities, Van Ert said.

“We just felt an obligation and commitment to the community to move due to the growth in and around the west campus and we have been working on this project for two years,” Van Ert said.

At the new area, four shallow metal pans approximately 10 ft. square each are set into the ground in an open area surrounded by sand. A flammable liquid is added on top of some water that remains in the pan. The liquid is ignited and may burn about one minute or less before being extinguished, Van Ert said.

Who and how it would be extinguished depends on how the facility is being used that day. “We teach students how to apply foam to a flammable liquid fire as part of the Firefighter 2 class,” Van Ert said, citing one example. “Or we may have a local fire department say they haven’t had a class in use of foam in a while and ask to come out for some training.”

The area can also be used for fires fueled by wood or other materials besides flammable liquids.

Sometimes private industries have products that must be tested outside under certain conditions, or are designed for use on a fire that would be too big for CVTC’s indoor Fire Safety Center at the West Campus, Van Ert added.

The Fire Safety Center and the outdoor burn area have been a great benefit to companies like Rusoh and OneEvent Technologies, both Wisconsin companies. Private use of the CVTC fire training and testing facilities is handled through CVTC’s Fire Safety Center.

Van Ert said that while the public may notice smoke from the short-duration fires from the outdoor burn area from time to time, it is doubtful anyone will spot any flames, and fires at the location will only occur a few times a month, and only a few times on a training or testing day.

Approvals for the activities at the site were obtained from the Department of Natural Resources and the city of Eau Claire, Chippewa Fire District and other area authorities, Van Ert said. No flammable materials are stored at the site and any residue fuel not burned is collected and removed from the site.