Tuesday December 4, 2012

BENNINGTON -- A large fire Sunday on Convent Avenue was a controlled burn used as a training exercise for local police and fire personnel.

Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette, the town’s director of public safety, said both the Bennington police and fire departments have been conducting training exercises at the duplex near the junction of Main Street and Convent Avenue. The drills included live firearms training over the summer, he said.

"At the conclusion of the training the house was burned on Sunday," he said.

The property was purchased in August 2011 by Normsel Development 9, LLC. Town records show it is under the care of David Greenberg.

Doucette said the house was set to be demolished, so he approached the owner about using it for training exercises. "It was a beautiful home that was a duplex, so we were able to do simultaneous exercises," he said.

Sunday’s fire allowed members of the fire department to perform rescue scenarios, including retrieving downed firefighters, Doucette said. Permits were obtained from the state for the burn, he said.

"We complied with the requirements and removed the asbestos and everything that was in the house," Doucette said. "The remains will be removed by the current property owner."

The large fire near a main thoroughfare into and out of town attracted lots of attention, Doucette said. Many people stopped to take pictures, and some wondered why firefighters were watching it burn. "It kind of went viral," Doucette said.

-- Neal Goswami