- Two apartments, The Gables and 200 W Mary Street, have caught on fire in the last three days.
- The Gables fire was in a vacant area; 200 W Mary Street has displaced 9 neighbors.
- Watch the video to see how the Valdosta Police Department tackles structural fires.
Thinking about leaving your stovetop unattended? flashed to fire Think Again.
I'm Malia Thomas, your neighborhood reporter in Valdosta, and I made a trip over to the Valdosta Fire Department's structural burn training to see how they put building fires.
"So we'll knock them down and rebuild a new home."
Meet Anetra Riley. Her specialty is neighborhood development. She tells me Valdosta is an Entitlement community, which means the city automatically receives funds each year for improvement in areas such as housing and public facilities.
City residents can apply for assistance, and if their home is designated for reconstruction, the city knocks their home down and builds them a new one. Or burns it down to the ground.
"We collaborate with the fire department so recruits can have fire training, and it saves the city some money on their budget."
The Valdosta Fire Department conducts fire symposiums and acquired structural burning training to give firefighters practice on strategy and tactics in a realistic setting. This comes at a perfect time as two Valdosta apartment complexes, 200 W Mary Street and The Gables, have had fires in the last 72 hours. The Gables fire was an empty portion of the building, but 200 W Mary Street's fire displaced 9 neighbors, forcing them to find other housing.
One West Mary neighbor who didn't want to be camera tells me that the fire was so bad, she could hear animals screaming from the other building.
Fire Chief Brian Boutwell explains the origins.
"One caused by unattended cooking, and the other one is still under investigation at this point.
Chief Boutwell tells me Valdosta has seen approximately 60 structural fires so far this year. I checked with the U.S. Fire Administration's Georgia Fire Loss and Fire Department profile. Residential structure fires account for 76.2% for fire casualties, just slightly higher than the national average at 70.9%.
This is why training and public education through the city's Fire Prevention Week is so important to the Chief and his department.
"So in the city of Valdosta, we're still averaging 120-150 building fires a year. I can tell you the majority of those are accidental fires."
While neighbors at West Mary are still displaced, there's one silver lining from the fire department this week: a citizen getting a new home.
"They're really ecstatic and happy and really thankful for the city to provide this service."
Fire Prevention Week starts October 8th, I'm Malia Thomas, ABC27.