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Firefighters Burning Abandoned Homes to Learn Lifesaving Lessons

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KINSTON — After Hurricane Fran, some houses that are prone to flooding were abandoned. Now those houses are being used to help fire investigators hone their skills.

The Federal government has bought many of the homes so they can be destroyed. The Kinston Fire Department, along with national agencies, has opted to burn some of the homes to get some potentially lifesaving training.

Tajuana Simmons is watching the house next door go up in smoke; but that is OK. It has been an empty eyesore since flooding from Hurricane Fran.

"It's been here since I've been here and I've been here a year. I'm just glad it's going down," she says.

The ATF, the SBI and dozens of other fire departments from throughout the state are burning it down.

This home and about 100 others are the perfect place to do real-life fire training. The old place gets cleaned up and thanks to the federal buyout program, no one ever lives here again.

"In the past flood we were in this area evacuating hundreds of people out of flood-prone areas. So we look forward to these areas not being inhabited dwellings that we're going to have to work with on another flood. And clearly, the other side is a great advantage to get this type of training," says Kinston Fire Chief Greg Smith.

This type of training is not easy to come by because it is focusing on electrical fires.

Engineers are overseeing how the houses are wired, so investigators can face down the enemy here before they see it in a real fire.

"We don't get the opportunity to have a building that is energized when we can actually go in, experiment, set fires and then have our guys go in to eliminate it or find the cause," says ATF Special Agent Jim Roberts.

Ten other homes in the area are expected to be burned down this week.

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Brian Bowman, Reporter
Brian Bowman, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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