The grand opening ribbon has just been cut on the new Fire Facilities training structure in Bentonville, Ark.. With the largest total square footage of any single training tower ever built by Fire Facilities, Inc., the custom Bentonville structure is 30-feet wide, five stories tall and features a record number of 12 burn rooms.
Opened on May 24, 2023, the 7,860-square-foot training facility was designed for live fire, search and rescue, technical rescue, hose deployment drills, firefighter rescue scenarios and many additional training courses. More than 140 Bentonville Fire Department personnel are scheduled to train on the structure.
“We had the architects and engineers custom design the facility eight-feet wider than the standard Commissioner structure,” says Joey Bequette, division chief of training with the Bentonville Fire Department. “We wanted larger rooms and hallways to accommodate all the training we wish to accomplish in the facility.”
Bequette stresses that with the growth of the City of Bentonville, the training facility needs to be of a size where firefighters can train for both high-rise and technical rescue operations. “By increasing the size of the facility, we are able to accomplish larger, more in-depth training scenarios that mimic real life emergencies,” says Bequette.
Record Number of Burn Rooms
One of the most important training aspects of the Fire Facilities structure is the 12 burn rooms within the state-of-the-art facility. Ten of the burn rooms, developed by Fire Facilities in conjunctions with Symtech and the Bentonville Fire Department, are designed for Class “B” or propane props and burns. These include kitchen, bedroom, and garage vehicle props, plus multiple hallway rollovers, a balcony BBQ grill, and 70,000 cfm smoke machines with distribution throughout the building.
“The various prop setups mimic realistic situations and scenarios that our firefighters very likely might encounter in a real emergency,” says Bequette. “Using propane provides a slightly more practical burn characteristic. It allows our personnel to train without being constantly exposed to large amounts of carcinogens. This reduces the wear and tear on personal protective equipment and makes it a safer environment for our people.”
The team at Symtech point out the high level of realism their props add to the training experience, including thermal output, realistic smoke, and a unique sound generation system.
“The sound generation system includes 10 speakers throughout the building,” says Pete Romero, engineering manager with Symtech. “During search and rescue, there are more than 40 sounds, including dogs barking, babies crying, coughing and cries for help. This adds to the realistic aspects of training.
“Value engineering is truly where we excel. An example of this is the Garage Burn Room. The equipment included can be used for a variety of training scenarios including garage vehicle fires, garage contents fires, loading bay scenarios, industrial rack fires, flammable liquids fires, extinguisher training and outdoor vehicle fires. All this for a price comparable to the typical market price for one gas prop scenario.
“Then there are wireless controls for the propane systems plus a 15-inch full color touch panel interface with data recording and remote diagnostics. This overall system provides Bentonville with reliability, realism and flexibility in their training with a trainee throughout level that is unmatched. Whether they’re training for victim removal, working in reduced visibility environments or search and rescue scenarios, or drilling for hose stretches and fire suppression, these versatile props support their efforts.”
Design and planning of the Bentonville facility started back in 2019. Over the next few years, extensive research went into first researching the type of structure the city wished to invest in, and then the specific structure itself.
According to Bequette, the staff and personnel spent time identifying the most important performance measures needed in a training structure. “Fire Facilities was selected by the planning group as meeting the largest number of the needs we had identified,” says Bequette. “They were able to accommodate us by designing a larger, more customized version of their current Commissioner model.
“It’s not a small feat to have an expanded size structure designed and constructed to meet our needs. Fire Facilities has been there every step of the way to help us, and Symtech has been nothing short of amazing as well. When designing and planning the building we asked some very unique demands of both companies, and they delivered.
“Through the construction, installation and in-service training, we had contact with everyone we needed at all times. Symtech has provided phenomenal technical support for us in getting started with the props and services of the building.”
After the Ribbon Cutting
With the extra-large training facility, the Bentonville Fire Department will be able to accomplish larger, more in-depth training scenarios that mimic real life emergencies. Now that the structure is now in use, the Bentonville Live Fire Instructor Team is developing burn-plan curriculum for the long-term needs of the department. Since April the facility has been used for victim search and rescue training in low visibility environments, hose load deployments, ground and aerial ladder deployments and other various ground operations.
“We’re ready to train on the two Class A burn rooms and the 10 Class B rooms,” says Bequette. “We have a large concentration of food truck facilities in our city that use propane for their operations. We now have the ability to train for those types of emergencies as well. With so many options, we’re eager to launch into our training.
“The important thing is that the challenging layout of our new facility provides outstanding and unique training opportunities for firefighters and fire officers at all skill levels.”