Work is set to begin soon on the county's new fire-training facility on Columbia Road.
The first step involves clearing the land and preparing the site, said Pam Tucker, the county's emergency services director.
The center will be constructed in phases.
"Hopefully, within eight or nine months, we can have our entire facility completed," Tucker said.
The county doesn't operate a fire-training facility, and Tucker said building one is crucial. It also will help with homeowner insurance rates.
The first phase calls for the addition of underground tanks called drafting pits. These pits will ensure that fire trucks can pull out water and pump it. A 1.5-acre concrete pad will be installed.
Tucker said the construction of the drafting pits and concrete pad is expected to take 90 days.
After that, work will begin on the training tower.
The five-story building, situated in the middle of the concrete slab, will allow firefighters to undergo live fire training, smoke training, hose testing and rappelling training. In addition, firefighters will be able to use thermal-imaging cameras and breathing equipment.
Another 1.5 acres is reserved for other forms of fire training. For example, an area will be used to burn old cars that simulate actual vehicle fires.
The area will encompass three acres, and Tucker said she hopes a covered outdoor area with bleachers and bathrooms can be added.
"We want something that's going to be here long after we're gone," she said. "We want something that's going to last this county and the fire service for a long time."
The construction of the training center will delay the new Leah fire station.
"You've got to take your projects, especially construction projects, and do them in a sequence of priority," she said. "They've got to have ongoing training."
Because the community of Leah already has full fire coverage, the need for a fire-training facility is more pressing, she said.
Tucker said the station will be included in the county's next sales tax referendum.
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