Back in 2001, the Central Mat-Su Fire Department in Wasilla, Alaska purchased The Fire Chief training tower. Now, 20 years later, the department plans to enhance its 80-acre training facility with the addition of The Hall Crawler from Fire Facilities.
“After 20 years of constant use, The Fire Chief is still in great shape,” says John Beebe, assistant fire chief with the Central Mat-Su Fire Department (CMSFD). “The quality of this training tower is one of my biggest reasons to purchase another Fire Facilities building.”
Maximizing Training Tower
The second largest and busiest fire department in Alaska, the CMSFD provides fire protection services for about 150 square miles in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley.
Beebe, who began his career as a firefighter in 1999, was promoted to training captain in 2013 and then to assistant chief over training in 2017. Since that time he’s made certain to maximize every opportunity to provide meaningful training courses to the 90 front line firefighters on the roster at CMSFD.
“We use The Fire Chief for everything from initial training to rescues to HazMat operations and a variety of officer training,” says Beebe. “Here in Alaska we have to consider and train in all types of weather. Weekly training on The Fire Chief can consist of anything from hose deployments and ground ladders to live fire training.
“Because of our climate, we do a lot of night time drills. In our area we can reach 85 degrees in the summer and -30 degrees in the winter with three feet of snow on the ground. We train to consider these situations in relations to roof operations, water flow, and hand line management. It’s important our training is as realistic as possible, and The Fire Chief helps us accomplish that goal.”
According to Beebe, The Fire Chief is in constant use. In addition to the city’s firefighters, another 50 local, state and federal law enforcement agency members use the training tower, plus some military units. They conduct events such as hostage, barricaded suspects, K9 and pursuit termination drills.
With such successes behind them, Beebe recently began the search for an additional training structure that resembles the community’s current construction trends.
“I decided on The Hall Crawler based on its ability to simulate a center hallway apartment building/hotel,” says Beebe. “This building will be used primarily for situational awareness, orientation, live fire and RIC. There’s a big asset in that The Hall Crawler has two burn rooms and one corner burn area.
“The Hall Crawler will allow us to host multiple fire-related classes. And, it gives our team different hallway type construction. Our existing Fire Facilities tower is great, but it’s fairly simple to navigate. I’m looking forward to more training challenges involving The Hall Crawler.”
Future Training Growth
Looking past the immediate addition of The Hall Crawler, Beebe and his community have long-term goals for keeping their firefighters trained and ready for any situation.
“Over the next five years we will add ‘like construction’ buildings to our training facility,” says Beebe. “These will include a 3/2 ranch, a 3/2 two-story, and a center stairwell multi-family 4-plex. Ideally we’d like each of these to include at least one burn room. We’re also planning to build a disorientation house that will be like a changeable maze. The more creative and realistic our structures are, the better trained we will be.
“Everyone with Fire Facilities has been very professional and knowledgeable. The Fire Chief is worth every penny we invested in it 20 years ago. The layout and quality of this tower has undoubtedly contributed to well-trained firefighters, which has increased our ability to protect both lives and property in our community.”