The vacant house next to Ames School that Riverside Elementary School District 96 purchased last year will not be demolished until this summer, so the Riverside Fire Department can use the house for training until the beginning of August.
Riverside Fire Chief Matthew Buckley appeared before the school board on Feb. 15 and told the board that the empty house at 92 Repton Road could be used as a venue for realistic training for firefighters. Last week the District 96 Board of Education voted 6 to 1 to delay demolition of the house
“As the fire chief it’s my obligation to get our firefighters to get the best training possible, not only for ourselves, but for the residents,” Buckley told the school board.
Training exercises at the house will allow the department to augment the training firefighters receive at the fire academy and will give them a more realistic training environment, Buckley said. In the past Buckley said the department has conducted training exercises at other vacant homes in Riverside scheduled for demolition.
The training will mostly be done inside the house though Buckley said firefighters might climb on to the roof of the home. For training exercises the house will be filled with obstacles firefighters will practice maneuvering their hoses around. The house itself will not be set aflame.
Since the Riverside Fire Department is a paid-on-call department, meaning it is not staffed with full-time firefighters, most training will take place on Wednesday evenings or Saturdays, Buckley said.
The school board and administration have not yet make plans as to how to use the property the district purchased for just under $340,000. The land could be used for an addition to Ames School, a separate building, increased playground space or some combination of those uses. Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye is touring district schools seeking information on options.
No decision on how to use the space at 92 Repton is expected until summer at the earliest, so most of the school board decided that there would be no harm in delaying the demolition of the house until the beginning of August.
Mary Rose Mangia cast the only vote against delaying demolition, saying she thought the house should be demolished as soon as practical.
“My biggest concern is that vacant homes are attractive nuisances,” Mangia said saying that she was concerned about squatters and people breaking into the home.
The house will remain secured with a padlock and Buckley said that the Riverside Police Department will put the house on a special watch and make extra passes by the house.
Board member Rachel Marrello noted that the house has already been empty for nearly a year without issues.
“That house is not really an eyesore,” Marrello said.
Buckley said the fire department will notify neighbors well in advance of any training sessions at the house.
“We’re going to send them a letter as to what we’re doing and if there are any questions or concerns,” Buckley said. “While we’re out there we welcome anybody to come see what we’re doing or talk about it. If we are disrupting anybody or anything come and tell us and it’s stopped immediately.”