Three western Montana fire agencies held a practice burn in Missoula on Saturday, March 22, to provide a training opportunity for both volunteer and career firefighters.

Missoula Rural Fire, East Missoula and Frenchtown Fire Departments all participated in the burn at 3417 Kehrwald Drive in the Target Range area. The home had been badly damaged by the floods of 2011, and several county agencies worked together with the homeowner to acquire the property in order to make the practice burn possible.

Missoula Rural Fire Chief Bill Colwell said the home had been sectioned off into several areas to provide training to the firefighters.

There were 42 total firefighters at the training site. 18 were career personnel, and the remaining 24 were all volunteers.

Colwell said the fire trucks at the scene all ranged in price from $225,000 to $250,000, and there were at least five trucks on scene, totaling more than $1 million in trucks alone, not to mention all the hoses and safety gear for the firefighters.

The fire was started in a back bedroom on the first floor, and as part of their training, several firefighters were deployed in such a way that they could view how the fire grew and accelerated. They all dropped to their knees and checked their gear before advancing with hoses and tools to fight the fire. Acrid smoke billowed out the windows, while curious neighbors and spectators took photos and video from a safe distance.

Missoula Rural Fire allowed KGVO News along with several local television crews closer to the home to see the firefighters at work inside.

Colwell said the structure would eventually be completely demolished by fire, with crews receiving training throughout the exercise. The debris would then be removed down to the foundation, with the plan to make the property part of the city parks system.

Missoula Rural Fire Chief Bill Colwell