An expansion of a church on the border of Kent and Stow gave area fire departments a rare chance for some realistic training. 

The Stow and Kent fire departments are spending six days over a period of two weeks training at the house at 4117 Newcomer Road in Kent. By about midday on Wednesday, the house will have gone up in flames.

Riverwood Community Chapel in Kent owns the house, and needed to demolish it so the church can expand. The church allowed the fire departments to use the house for training.

"That kind of training isn’t as abundant as it used to be," said Lt. Jeff Tyler from the Kent Fire Department. Tyler explained that newer regulations often prevent such training. "When we get these houses, we really appreciate it. That’s as realistic training as we’re going to get."

Mike Lang, assistant chief of the Stow Fire Department, said the two fire departments worked together on several trainings during the project. The courses included search and rescue, hose line advancement and building construction. There also were live burning trainings, where firefighters can do search and rescue under realistic smoke conditions.

Lang said such training opportunities are "few and far between."

"It was an outstanding set of circumstances," he said. "It was right on the border of Kent and Stow. Being right on the border, you couldn’t have asked for a better set of circumstances, We were able to do training, and we could still respond to emergencies without leaving our jurisdiction."

Tyler said setting small fires allowed firefighters to practice "vent, enter and search" training. For example, he said, if a resident of a burning house says that a child is trapped in the house, firefighters need to know how to enter a bedroom, open a window and close the door before rescuing the child. Firefighters practiced doing those things as quickly as possible.

Kent Firefighter Scott Simmons, a CPR instructor at University Hospitals Portage Medical Center, also led a training on performing CPR on firefighters. The firefighters practiced removing the gear as quickly as possible so they could do chest compressions on the firefighters. 

Both fire departments said by the time the training finishes on Wednesday, most members of the fire departments will have done some training at the house.

Tyler said the church offered the house as an "acquired structure."

"Riverwood offered it to us for training, and it was a great opportunity for us," he said. 

The church, at 1407 Fairchild Ave., is planning a 10,400-square-foot expansion, including a multi-purpose room with a gymnasium and fellowship hall for social events, as well as classrooms. The project also includes a second driveway connected to Newcomer Road, according to plans previously approved by the city.

Lang praised the church for letting firefighters get realistic training.

"Between the live burns and the planned training, everybody got to get their hands on it," he said.

Reporter Diane Smith can be reached at 330-298-1139 or