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Tiffin fire department gets rare controlled burn opportunity

TIFFIN– It was a windy Sunday morning when Tiffin volunteer firefighters struck the spark that set Terry Potter’s boyhood home aflame.
But weekend or not, calm or blustery, those are the conditions which firefighters must deal with in emergencies, and that’s why Tiffin Fire Department chief Brian Detert wanted to proceed with the controlled burn on Sunday, Nov. 6.
“This was the only day that fit into our schedule,” said Detert, “and it’s a good opportunity to practice exposure protection in the wind.”
The firefighters rarely get controlled burn opportunities inside city limits, Detert said. When Potter and his family donated their house on the corner of Main Street right across from Tiffin’s fire station, it offered a perfect chance to practice fire behavior, including ventilation practices, hose appliances and keeping the fire from spreading to neighboring structures.
Twenty of the department’s 23 firefighters were on hand at the scheduled house fire, as were two of the home’s previous occupants. Brothers Terry and Dave Potter, along with Dave’s wife Linda, reminisced as they watched the flames turn the 100-year-old home of Geraldine and Virgil Potter to ashes. The elder Potters were lifelong residents of Tiffin, where they raised three children (son Keith lives out-of-state) and operated a restaurant just one block away from the home that had been in their family for 55 years. After the house sat vacant for the last 25 of those years, the family decided to donate it to the fire department for hands-on practice.
“The house packs a lot of memories,” said Terry Potter. “We put an addition and the porch there. How two people could raise three kids in that small house, I don’t know. But we all did house cleaning, dishes and gardening. Work came first, fun came after.”
Similarly, the Tiffin firefighters gathered at the station for food after the house fire was safely put out. The firefighters typically receive about 10 hours of simulated training each month.
“Getting a house to practice on is a real treat,” said Detert. “It’s great to get the guys together for exercises like this, that are real-life situations, because we can practice all we want in the classroom, but doing it in real life is totally different.”