Burning questions in AftonAfton City Council considers using city-owned property for fire training
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
In preparation for its flood mitigation project, Afton City Council has purchased several properties in the floodplain; however the question becomes what to do with the properties.
Afton City Council discussed one option during its Oct. 16 meeting.
Over the past two months Afton has purchased two houses currently sitting in the Reach 2 area of the city’s levee, since the city has opted not to completely reconstruct the levee.
The purchase of the properties would allow the river and the levee to flood naturally without concern of home damage.
City Council is currently in the process of purchasing a third property.
The body has previously said its intention is to demolish, or relocate, the three houses.
During last Tuesday’s meeting, City Council discussed a proposal it received from the Lower St. Croix Valley Fire District (LSCVFD.)
LSCVFD Deputy Chief Jim Stanley presented a proposal to use one of the properties, at 3633 St. Croix Trail, as a fire prevention training exercise.
As part of the training, firefighters would fill the house with smoke to train how to maneuver through a smoke-filled house.
Additionally, the training would consist of falling debris.
“This is something a little more realistic for us,” Stanley said.
The final stage of the training would be to actually burn the house.
The city’s only responsibility would be the removal of asbestos in the house, all hazardous materials and any debris left after the burn.
Public Works Director Ken Johnson said he decided to bring the option to City Council because it would be considerably cheaper than demolition of the house.
Demolition would cost the city around $12,000, whereas the burn would cost the city between $5,000 and $6,000.
However, the downside to burning the house, rather than demolishing, is the timeline is unpredictable given the current burning ban in place.
Stanley said the burn would not likely be able to take place until there is some snow on the ground, and even then the burn would have to occur before it gets to freezing temperatures.
“I would want it to sit there empty as little as possible,” City Council Member Bill Palmquist said.
Council members appeared to be torn on whether or not to allow the house to be burned.
“I like the idea of the burn,” City Council Member Randy Nelson said. “It would help you guys out and it would be cheaper for the city.
“Plus once it’s burned that’s the end of it — it’s not filling up a landfill somewhere.”
Council Member Joe Richter disagreed with Nelson.
“I would not go for a burn in that area,” he said. “It’s too close to other homes and could be detrimental to other people in that area – I’m just not a fan of that idea.”
Palmquist said he is in favor of the cost savings; however he can see Richter’s view also.
“It would be a strange site to have it burning,” he said. “That would be a pretty intimidating thing to be next to.”
City Council ultimately agreed to let LSCVFD use the property for its initial training, but will decide on whether or not to allow the burn at a later date.
Additionally, the council agreed to let the former property owners salvage whatever they want from the house and whatever is left the city will salvage.