Orange County

Big blaze in Chapel Hill, just the way firefighters planned it

“We make sure everybody’s accounted for; then we just light it up and let it go,” New Hope Fire Department Chief Mike Tapp says during a controlled burn of a vacant house at the future Carraway Village development in northern Chapel Hill on Saturday, July 8, 2017.
“We make sure everybody’s accounted for; then we just light it up and let it go,” New Hope Fire Department Chief Mike Tapp says during a controlled burn of a vacant house at the future Carraway Village development in northern Chapel Hill on Saturday, July 8, 2017. mschultz@heraldsun.com

White puffs dotted a blue sky Saturday except in northern Chapel Hill where orange flames shot into the air and black clouds billowed.

No one was hurt and the only damage was intended, as firefighters from five departments deliberately set a vacant house ablaze at the site of the future $100 million Carraway Village development on Eubanks Road.

“They had to get rid of these houses, so we offered to burn them for them,” New Hope Fire Chief Mike Tapp said, referring to the brick building that burned Saturday and another they burned earlier.

Carraway Village’s first, $70 million, phase will bring 400 apartments and 8,400 square feet of ground-floor retail to the 55-acre site. Developer Northwood Ravin plans a walkable community around a 16,000-square-foot Village Green.

The live-burn began weeks ago, with planning and permits to ensure Saturday’s 50 firefighters would be safe, Tapp said.

Even so, an ambulance and blue awnings sheltering cooling chairs stood at the ready, as temperature soared into the 90s.

Live burns provide realistic training.

Firefighters unspoil 100-foot sections of hose, fill portable water tanks and ignite bales of straw and wood pallets to spread the fire from room to room.

A steady spray from a ladder truck keeps the fire under control.

“Then we get everybody out of the building,” Tapp said, removing his helmet to wipe away sweat. “We make sure everybody’s accounted for. Then we just light it up and let it go.”

Mark Schultz: 919-829-8950

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