Jul 28, 2014
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Albertville Farm Burn: Saying Goodbye to a Place of Memories

The Dahlheimers decided it was time to get rid of the abandoned buildings on their farm, and St. Michael, Albertville and Monticello fire departments conducted fire training before the burn.

Memories of the Dahlheimer farm stayed alive as the house on the farm burned to the ground as planned Saturday.

Neighbors and friends of the Dahlheimer family attended, and firefighters from St. Michael, Albertville and Monticello Fire Departments surrounded the house for hours, conducting training drills before letting the house burn.

Owners of the farm, Merle and Laverne Dahlheimer, decided it was time to burn the abandoned house, barn and sheds on the property. Merle was raised on the farm since he was an infant in 1926, and he and his wife raised eight children there, who in turn raised their own children on the farm.

Carol Eicher, Merle and Laverne's daughter, sat with her relatives to watch the burn. As she watched the drills of the firefighters, going inside the house and lighting various rooms on fire and then putting them out, she said she was excited for the actual burn.

"It's no fun to watch until it's really huge," she said with a smile.

Merle Dahlheimer watched the drills as he chatted with old friends.

"I've been gone from here for some years, but I remember a lot," he said, adding that he's come to terms with the fact that it was time to get rid of the house. "It got looking so dirty, you kind of know it's got to be cleaned up."

Bonnie Hines saw smoke from the road and decided to stop by the farm. She lived in a house down the road and she and the Dahlheimers were "next-door neighbors," she said.

"It's got to be hard for the family — it's so sad to see your growing-up place go down," Hines said. "It's going to look so different."

Tate Mills, Albertville fire chief, said the burn is a rare opportunity for training firefighters.

"They don't come along very often," he said. "They're kind of few and far between, so we really like to take advantage of them when we can."

When the housing market was strong, there were many more opportunities for training at burns, Mills explained. Housing developers would buy properties and want to build — asking the fire department to burn the existing buildings. 

The crew conducted level one and level two burns, then let the fire go. Level one is when firefighters inside the home light fires and putting them out. Level two is when they enter the house after the fire is set and put it out.

"They watch the character of the fire and watch it build," Mills said.

Debbie Anderson watched her husband Roland Anderson at the drill. He is captain of the St. Michael Fire Department and was a burn instructor Saturday.

"I've been watching burns for 14 years, and every time, I learn something new," Debbie Anderson said of the way the fire shapes out. "Every house is set up differently, and this house was built like a rock."

She added that she appreciates the value the burn brings to the community.

"It's such a good learning tool for the new guys," Anderson said. "It's just so fascinating."

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