Safety first. Not just a motto for the firefighters in Fond du Lac, WI, but also their creed for ongoing training. In 2018 they built on that principle by adding a dedicated fire training facility constructed in their city.
“Having a place specifically for training in a safe environment is critical,” says Peter O’Leary. As Fire Chief for the past 13 years over 65 uniformed members of the Fond du Lac Fire Department, O’Leary is committed to the benefits of safe training.
“I don’t know how we’ve lasted this long without The Fire Chief training structure,” says O’Leary. “I simply can’t imagine not having our own training facility in the future.”
Filling a Need
The search for a new facility started years ago. Joseph Moore, City Manager for the City of Fond du Lac, is responsible for the city budget. He identified the best fit in terms of timing and cost for adding The Fire Chief within the scope of the city’s five-year capital improvement plan.
“I was responsible for the education of the City Council, and of the public, pertaining to the additional training capability our city required,” says Moore. “We have always believed that how you train is how you operate, especially under extreme conditions. However, at the time, our training capacity and ability to train in near real life conditions was severely limited because we lacked a dedicated training facility.”
The Fire Chief structure purchased by the City of Fond du Lac stands 40-feet high and 60-feet long. It is Made in America with American steel. The tower’s residential-like design provides a burn room on the first floor, interior stairs to the multiple floors and an interior fixed ladder. There’s also roof-mounted chop-out curbs, and parapet roof guard with chain opening.
Educating the Public
After the new training structure was installed, Chief O’Leary expanded the training program to law enforcement and SWAT team members to train on The Fire Chief. Neighboring firefighters have also used the facility periodically.
To educate the public on the capabilities and benefits of The Fire Chief, O’Leary established an annual “Media Day” and has invited media members each year to experience fire training for themselves.
“Media Day gives us the opportunity to teach reporters and the public about our jobs, how we prepare to battle fires, HAZMAT incidents, confined space rescues, and other scenarios,” says O’Leary. “By hosting Media Day we build positive relations with the very people who cover our stories.
“My advice to any fire department is to host a Media Day, taking advantage of your training facility. Invite the local media out for safe educational training that you control. You’ll truly reap the benefits.”
O’Leary has another tip for fire chiefs across the county. “Come visit us or another agency with a fire training tower,” says O’Leary. “You’ll see just how versatile Fire Facilities training structures are, and the endless training possibilities they offer.”
Moore also has advice for communities considering the acquisition of a fire training tower, and funding for a structure.
“First, focus on the need for real life training when talking with your governing bodies,” says Moore. “Second, talk about training facilities as investments rather than expenditures.
“Ultimately, training structures are an investment in protecting people’s lives and property. It’s also reasonable to frame the conversation about training facilities as a pursuit of excellence for your community.
“We’ve followed these steps. As a result, both the public and our firefighters are proud of their training facility. After all, we built it to enable firefighters and paramedics to better serve the public. That’s the type of investment everyone understands and appreciates.”