By Brian O’Shea, Plateau Daily News
The old Crane family home across from The Bascom at 65 Oak Street has been a part of Highlands history since the early 1900s, but on Saturday that remnant of the past was burned to make room for new development.
The 2 ½ acre-tract is now part of the gated 5-acre Sanctuary at 1st subdivision which will feature nine homes on 1/2 -acre tracts accessed via the subdivision road running down the center from First to Oak streets.
Area firefighters used its burning as a training event but since the home had fallen into complete disrepair even burning it as a training exercise required a number of safety steps. Those steps included asbestos removal, approval from multiple health agencies, and permission from the NC Department of Air Quality, not to mention things like rotten floorboards or staircases.
“You don’t just go and burn something like that down to use for training,” said Highlands Fire & Rescue Chief Ryan Gearhart. “You have to go through all the proper channels and get permissions for safety. This makes the fire as realistic as possible but not a health hazard.”
Burning a house down gives firefighters a chance to work on skills such as forced entry, searching, and extinguishing fires.
“It’s a good training opportunity for the guys inside, and for everyone outside as well,” said Gearhart.
Departments that participated on Saturday, Feb. 18, included Highlands Fire & Rescue, Cashiers-Glenville Fire Department, Rabun County Station 8, and Macon County Squad 4.