Fire technology students at College of the Siskiyous now have double the opportunity for real-life, hands-on training. A new Assistant Fire Chief tower from Fire Facilities was recently installed on the school’s Fire Technology Grounds near their original Tactical Fire Training Facility. Leaders of the program look forward to the two structures balancing each other out for training of students and local partner agencies.
“The diversity of the Assistant Fire Chief simply gives a much greater variety of scenarios that students and firefighters can drill on,” says Jesse Roberts, fire technology instructor with College of the Siskiyous (COS) in Weed, Calif. “Instructors have to be very creative when conducting training scenarios. Students can start to memorize the layout of the building, which can lead to complacency in training that may carry over to the street in real fires.
“Complacency in the fire service is very dangerous. The new Assistant Fire Chief has the ability to mock up hundreds of unique scenarios by rotating the floor plan. This will ensure the students have the mindset to be ready for anything, with the goal of translating this attitude into real world situations.”
Selected for Realism
Made of all-American steel, the Assistant Fire Chief features a four-story fire training tower, residential section and burn room annex. Activities such as laddering, rappelling, roof penetration and high-angle rescue operations can take place on the structure.
Class A fires, using wood, brush and paper, creating realistic intense heat, can be produced inside the new structure. This is different than the existing training facility, which uses propane burners.
According to Michael Wilson, who helped select the Assistant Fire Chief while serving as the Fire Technology program coordinator and instructor at COS, “A fire tower gets cadets out of the classroom and into a safe and controlled work environment.” Quoted in the Mt. Shasta News on June 9, 2021, Wilson continues to say, that specifically, in a fire tower (like the Assistant Fire Chief) students experience the strain of working “in a confined space and wearing a breathing apparatus, while putting out a fire.”
Wilson dedicated several years to researching and coordinating the procurement of The Assistant Fire Chief for the Fire Technology program. Unfortunately he died from COVID-19 just months before the structure was opened in Spring of 2022.
“This was Mike’s project and he was excited about the benefits it will bring to our students,” says Roberts. “We’re honoring him every time we send students into the structure to prepare them to become knowledgeable career firefighters.”
Sharing the Structure
In addition to the 36 college students currently training on the new training tower, the COS Fire Technology Grounds are also available to a variety of outside organizations for training. Cal Fire, Weed Fire Department, COS Police Academy and local volunteer agencies routinely perform rope rescue and a variety of drills using the building.
“This new structure belongs to COS, so we have the ability to offer it up to agencies interested in using it for their training purposes,” says Roberts. “We feel exceptionally good about having two training facilities that offer unique experiences. Mike invested a ton of time in researching and planning for the Assistant Fire Chief structure to be installed on our campus. We plan to use this investment wisely.
“For decades to come, our program will prepare students for rewarding careers in firefighting, provide in-service training to career and volunteers firefights, and provide certification to those meeting the requirements as Firefighter I, Firefighter II, and Company Officer.”
The Fire/Emergency Response Technology program at College of the Siskiyous is approved as an Accredited Regional Training Program by the California State Board of Fire Services. The Assistant Fire Chief project cost the college $1.3 million and was funded by a grant from the California Community College Strong Workforce program.