Year after year, Ocean County, N.J. sees double-digit population growth. That’s one reason why it’s so important for firefighters in the county seat of Toms River to constantly train for residential fire scenarios.
“Our county includes everything from oceanfront vacation homes to a mega amusement park,” says Chief Fire Instructor Michael Cocco with the Toms River Fire Training Center. “We train mostly for single family residential fire situations, but we’ll also train for motel occupancy and other situations.”
High Level Training
Since 2015 the Toms River firefighters have trained on The Commissioner, an all-steel 40-foot high structure created by Fire Facilities. The Commissioner consists of a four-story fire training tower, a two-story residential section, and a one-story burn room annex. Toms River Instructors Matthew Yezzi and Matthew Janora invested time researching and planning for the type of training center that would best fit the needs of firefighters in their department. They followed the project right through the completion of the build.
“There were several key people involved in making sure that The Commissioner was the right choice for our operations when we were searching for a training structure,” says Cocco. “This is the largest standard building offered by Fire Facilities. It provides a variety of training opportunities.
“The floor plan square footage and diversity is one of the best aspects of The Commissioner building. We added additional burn areas above and beyond our previous building. The four independent burn areas have been a great addition to our academy.”
Toms River Fire Training Center
Cocco believes that firefighters going through classes at the Toms River Fire Training Center get a great deal of hands-on experience with the multiple features offered in The Commissioner. The residential section includes interior and exterior stairs, two roof chop-out curbs, hallways, a burn room, and a burn area in the attic. The 73-foot long tower section offers interior decks and stairs, ship’s ladder, parapet roof guard with chained opening, and a roof chop-out curb. There’s also a cantilevered balcony, inset balcony and fire escape.
“At least 500 firefighters train at our academy each year,” says Cocco. “There are approximately 250 firefighters in our township who train at the academy regularly on classes for everything from beginner through advanced. Then you have outside companies using the facility. Other fire companies, EMS, police departments and outside agencies are all welcome to train here based on scheduling.”
The academy is led by Director Robert Hansson, Deputy Director Carlton Seaman and Cocco. Thirty instructors are all Certified Fire Instructors through the N.J. Division of Fire Safety, Pro-Board and IFSAC. For some sessions Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are used. The SMEs are vetted by the Academy Administration Staff. Some instructors are also members of ISFSI.
“Our instructors are keenly in tune with making sure that firefighters focus on safety and enhancing their skills during every training exercise,” says Cocco. “The Commissioner, and the Fire Facilities staff, have been great to work with. This investment by the people in our area continues to pay off every day. Our firefighters get to sharpen their skills on this training structure. When an actual fire occurs, that training results in efficiencies that can save lives.”