Bivins Street Controlled Burn Information

This page has been set up to provide residents and the media with information about our mid-July training exercise and our efforts to address the adjacent property owners' concerns northeast of the burn site regarding paint chips and ash in their yards due to prevailing wind conditions on that date.


The Durham Fire Department conducted a live training burn on Friday, July 14, at 1415 Bivins Street. The house was donated for temporary use by our department as an opportunity to conduct many different types of real-life training such as forcible entry, search and rescue, hose-line deployment, laddering, firefighter mayday, rapid Intervention training (rescue of an injured or trapped firefighter), fire behavior, and fire control.

As we arranged for this training, we followed all state and local guidelines, North Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshal guidelines, and National Fire Protection Association protocols, including mandatory asbestos testing and abatement required by the NCDHHS. There is no requirement for lead testing when a building is burned.

Resident Concerns

Following the controlled burn, City officials received messages from nearby residents who were concerned after paint chips and ash reached their properties. These materials reached nearby properties due to the prevailing wind conditions during the training exercise.

Although we have conducted many training burns like this over the years, we have never been contacted about this concern before, so we worked quickly to prepare a plan to address it. We immediately connected with property owners about what we were doing about their concerns and began seeking testing and clean-up companies to begin remediation work as soon as possible.

City Actions

We contacted the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and the Durham County Public Health Department (DCo Public Health) for their recommendations on the best way to proceed given this is the first time we’ve encountered this situation. While none of these local and state agencies indicated an immediate need for concern, we moved forward to secure a remediation company to assist with testing and cleanup of debris and paint chips.

On July 25, NCDHHS inspected the burn site and walked the neighborhood. Based on what was observed and the direction provided by NCDHHS, we partnered with Matrix Health & Safety Consultants to perform lead testing of the controlled burn debris found on private property where the property owners have provided their consent for their property to be inspected and cleaned up, as needed.

Residents were notified that Matrix selected five properties for sampling as part of the process to determine the scope of any needed remediation. The residents were also notified that all the properties did not need to be sampled and if their property was not selected for sampling, it did not mean they would not be included in the cleanup.

Matrix provided us with recommendations for necessary cleanup based on the findings, which are provided in the "Testing Results" section of this page.

The City's contractor, SERVPRO, conducted cleanup activities of the affected properties in the neighborhood according to recommendations from NCDHHS and Matrix Health & Safety Consultants. SERVPRO is certified by the NCDHHS for lead-based paint hazard management, renovation, and repair.

We want residents to know that safety is our top priority in all that we do, and we understand their concerns. We recommend residents contact the Durham County Public Health Department at 919-560-7600 or by email at [email protected] for information and guidance regarding any potential health concerns.

Benefits of Live Fire Training

Although there are other ways to train, nothing else provides this level of real-world contextual experience. Over three weeks, about 90 firefighters across three shifts engaged in training without fire. The culmination of this opportunity was the live fire training in which 32 fires were set and extinguished. Over 50 firefighters participated in the training on that one day.Durham Firefighters training with live fire at home on Bivins Street

  • Increased Exposure: the number of live fire exposures most firefighters and incident commanders can experience in one day of training often could take several years to gain in actual emergency responses.
  • Better Preparation: this training leaves our firefighters better prepared to be at our very best to help us save people's lives, their pets, and their homes.
  • Different Environment: a controlled burn offers a unique chance to navigate a new space in real-world conditions rather than using our training facility, which our firefighters are very familiar with.
  • Controlled Threat: while we can replicate many real-world instances in this training exercise, we are also able to do so in a safe environment as our crews are in constant control of the fire and all backup resources are already in place to prevent the type of extremely hazardous events that can happen in an emergency.

Testing Results

The City's contractor, Matrix, returned results on August 2 after lead testing was performed from burn debris found on private property where property owners provided their consent for the property to be inspected and cleaned up.

Samples of ash found from the burn were tested and did not test positive for lead. Of the paint chips that were collected, three paint chips were identified as having lead above the EPA and HUD standards of 0.5% lead by weight.

You can see the results for 1101 Wells Street, 1110 Wells Street, 1205 Shepherd Street, 1314 Carroll Street, and 1315 Carroll Street.

Neighborhood Updates

  • June 2023: Properties within 300' of controlled burn site notified of planned burn.
  • July 14, 2023: Notice that Durham Fire Department to conduct live burn training was posted to social media.
  • July 20, 2023: City Fire officials emailed residents who reported debris from the controlled burn landing on their property to acknowledge their concerns and communicate next steps.
  • July 25, 2023: Members of the Durham Fire Department, City Risk Management, City Attorney’s Office, Durham County Public Health Department, and NC Department of Health and Human Services met at the site of the live burn and walked through the neighborhood. We talked with several members of the neighborhood and added additional names to the list of concerned property owners.
  • July 25, 2023: Following the site visit with local and state officials, City Fire officials emailed residents to provide an update on the site visit and next steps.
  • August 4, 2023: City Fire officials went door to door placing door hangers with information about the burn and debris throughout the affected areas of the neighborhood.
  • August 4, 2023: City Fire officials provided an update on the sampling results.
  • Week of August 7, 2023: SERVPRO began assessments and cleanup of affected properties.
  • Week of August 28, 223: SERVPRO completed follow-up visits and cleanup of affected properties.