Columbia County firefighters now have a place to test fire truck pumps. By spring, they'll have a permanent and versatile center to train for just about any scenario.
The county's first fire training center, behind Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue's Engine Co. No. 12 on Columbia Road in Appling, is under construction. The project is funded by a 2006 voter-approved bond and is expected to cost $575,000.
Plans for the three-acre center include a five-story training tower, burn room and drafting pit, where fire truck pumps will be tested. The center, which will be available to firefighters from the Martinez-Columbia, Harlem and Grovetown departments, is schedule to be completed in February.
"The facility is total, 100 percent," said Pam Tucker, Columbia County's emergency services director. "All the training functions that they do hands-on will be able to take place out there."
The drafting pit is complete and is made of a foot of crushed rock under eight inches of concrete to hold heavy, water-loaded fire trucks. It includes two pits for firefighters to test pumps by pumping water from one pit to another and also allows for the training of pump operators, said Martinez-Columbia Chief Doug Cooper.
Previously, firefighters tested pumps in area ponds.
"Over the past few years with the drought, it is tough to test pumps in a pond," Cooper said.
In the center of a more than one-acre concrete pad is a large square that is the site of the planned five-story fire tower. The building will allow for training in a burn room as well as search and rescue exercises, training with thermal imaging cameras, rappelling and drills for high-angle rescues, which will help firefighters better prepare for fires that might occur at some of the county's larger structures, including hotels and industrial plants.
"It is just so versatile," Tucker said. "It is going to have numerous functions."
Cooper said the department currently has a small makeshift burn building at the Gibbs Road station, but it is dilapidated and has to be replaced routinely. Otherwise, fire training is dependent on donations of houses. The burning donated houses is becoming more difficult with new requirements by the state Environmental Protection Division, based on asbestos and other concerns.
Tucker said an additional square surrounding the concrete pad can be used for a variety of training exercises, including setting training fires on cars or other small structures, wreck rescue and extrication, medical training, and practicing with new equipment.
"The possibilities of this thing are just endless," Cooper said. "This is just the start to the training center. We are going to be continuously adding to it."
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