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Large live burn fire exercise planned for Saturday in Muscatine

The former Beach Lumber property was donated to the city of Muscatine by the Carver family.
Firetruck (Tribune Media)

MUSCATINE — If you are driving on Muscatine’s Hershey Avenue near the former Beach Lumber Yard company this Saturday and see a large plume of smoke and many emergency vehicles, no need to call 911 – it’s just a training exercise.

The Muscatine Fire Department is holding a large-scale training burn involving between 70 and 80 firefighters from multiple area departments that will start with a road closure around 7 a.m. Saturday, March 25 in the 1000 block of Hershey Ave. Instructors for the training exercise come from the Blue Grass, Durant, Muscatine and West Liberty fire departments.

“This is an opportunity to facilitate inter-agency cooperation and conduct hands-on training in a more controlled environment than we would have at an actual fire,” Muscatine Fire Department Captain Gary Ronzheimer said. “Safety is our primary concern, for the firefighters, for the equipment, and for the public.”

Local residents and business owners will have access to their property until the time of the fire, which firefighters say will likely be started around 1 p.m.. The area will be cleared and a space for residents to view the training fire will be established at the intersection of Green Street and Hershey Avenue.

The fire department distributed door knockers this week to alert residents in the surrounding neighborhood of the upcoming training exercise.

“Weather conditions will play a large part in how the smoke moves up and out from the fire,” Ronzheimer said. “Anyone that lives in the area and could be affected by the smoke should find somewhere else to be until the burn is completed.”

Muscatine Fire Department will also have units standing by in case embers from the fire would spread and cause unintended fires.

The detour for the training exercise will be the same as a typical flood detour, with signage posted around the affected area to direct motorists. Traffic will be diverted to Main Street, to West Eighth Street, and to Iowa Avenue.