By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Ocean City firefighters took advantage of a unique opportunity for some realistic training at an old home that is ready to be demolished.
Built in 1898, the Victorian-style house at 105 Simpson Ave. will soon be torn down to make room for two new single-family homes. Large construction machinery used for demolition work is parked in the side yard.
Lorraine Hansen and her husband, John, have lived in the house for 33 years and raised three daughters there. Lorraine said the home likely will be demolished Wednesday or Thursday.
The Hansens will live in one of the new single-family homes that will take the place of the old house, which occupies an oversized lot.
“We can stay in our neighborhood. We love our neighborhood,” Lorraine Hansen said.
With the fate of the old house sealed, the Hansens allowed the Ocean City Fire Department to use the property Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday for a training exercise.
“The house is coming down, so anything we can do to help their cause. These firefighters are great,” Lorraine said.
The training exercise was particularly valuable for young firefighters who may lack experience in battling real blazes, Fire Chief Jim Smith said.
“It lets the young firefighters see what we’re doing in a controlled environment,” said Smith, who noted that the department had eight new hires last year.
The exercise showed firefighters how to safely move a water hose around inside a house filled with potential hazards during a simulated blaze.
Firefighters also gained experience in how to take command at a fire scene. Regular firefighters simulated taking on the duties of a captain and the captains assumed the responsibilities of a deputy fire chief.
“Hey, if you’re going to make mistakes, that’s where we’re going to work on them,” Smith said of the drill.
Smith noted that the fire department is interested in hearing from other homeowners who would allow their property to be used for training.
The simulated fire at 105 Simpson Ave. was a source of excitement for homeowners on the block of Simpson Avenue between First and Second streets.
“Over the weekend, there was a mini-crowd. Local folks and some dog walkers stopped to watch,” said Nancy McNamara, who lives at 112 Simpson Ave. “It was very interesting to see what the firefighters were doing. They’re Ocean City’s finest.”
Smith said neighbors came out of their homes to bring the firefighters mugs of hot coffee during the chilly weather over the weekend.
Lorraine Hansen, meanwhile, explained that her old house has a connection to the fire department. The Hansens bought it 33 years ago from Anna May Blizzard, who was related to a number of Ocean City firefighters, she said.
The Hansens are sorry to see the old house torn down, but felt that it would be better for them to reside in a new home for the next chapter of their lives, Lorraine said.
“We loved that old house. They know how much we loved it,” she said of the neighbors.
Some of the Victorian-era features have been salvaged, including the decorative chestnut trim that will be incorporated in the new house “in homage” to the old home, she said.