Columbia County commissioners recently approved some improvements to the fire training center in Appling.
During a May 19 meeting, the commission agreed to spend up to $140,000 to purchase a computerized, gas-powered stove and bed for the training center burn building. The Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue Board of Directors agreed to match those funds for the items, said Pam Tucker, director of Columbia County's Emergency and Operations Division.
"It sounds like a lot of money," Tucker said. "But these things are computerized. It is very sophisticated. The technology is really what the bulk of the money is going to be spent on."
Budget restraints prompted officials to cut the gas-powered appliances from the original project, Tucker said.
The $1.1 million facility, which opened in April, includes a four-story building with two burn rooms, smoke-generating machines, flat and pitched rooftops, a garage and movable interior walls.
The building is designed to burn wood for training fires or use natural gas fires to simulate real ones, said Danny Kuhlmann, the Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue training chief.
"It is better for the environment," Kuhlmann said, adding that temperatures cannot be controlled in wood fires, which can damage the building. "Plus, it is a little bit less work on us. We can control the temperature. We can control the amount of time the fire is burning."
The equipment also shuts down automatically if gas leaks or high temperatures are detected.
The system is programmable for different types of fires and detects when the proper amount and pressure of water is applied. It also simulates fires that require materials other than water to extinguish, such as kitchen grease fires, Tucker said.
More improvements to the training center are planned, including about $1 million in gas lines and training props donated and installed by Atlanta Gas Light Co.
"It is a partnership that we've got that will save us a good bit of money for some training props," Tucker said. "That will provide a multitude of different opportunities."
The company, which also will be allowed to use the training facility for its employees, will install props for training on a pipeline, undercover fire and propane fire, among others.
The center perimeter also is the future site of facilities for training on vehicle extrications and fires, confined space rescue, trench rescue and Dumpster fires, Kuhlmann said.
"Our goal with all of this is to save lives and property," Tucker said, adding that the additional training facilities also could help lower the county's Insurance Service Organization ratings. "This will greatly enhance our ability to do so. We've come a long way."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.