Back in 2003, when ground was broken for the fire training structure in Harlem-Roscoe Fire Protection District in Illinois, no one would have truly suspected what would be the future for the building. A custom made version of a Fire Chief model and a Hall Crawler layout, the four-story tower and two-story building created by Fire Facilities, Inc. has now been used for extensive fire training for almost 20 years.
“We use it on an average of 15 to 20 times a month,” says Chief Patrick Trollop with Harlem-Roscoe Fire Protection District in Roscoe, IL. “But we have months where we are using the facility almost every day.”
Training on the all-steel structure are currently 60 members of the Harlem-Roscoe Fire Protection District, who are responsible for covering approximately 80 square miles that serve about 35,000 residents. In addition, other fire departments, two county SWAT teams and a local police department also train on the structure.
Feeling the Heat
Since the Harlem-Roscoe Fire Protection District is an all-hazards response department, training indoors and outside on the building covers a variety of situations and scenarios. Outdoor ladders, an interior elevator shaft, overhead chop-outs in the attic for ventilation training, and rope rescue are all practiced regularly. However, fire search and rescue is at the heart of the training skills learned at this Fire Facilities training tower in Roscoe.
“Our tower has two different burn rooms,” says Trollop. “This provides our members the chance to use the main floor as a single-story fire as well as a basement fire. The second floor offers the opportunity to advance hose lines up the stairwell.
“To keep training fresh, we use the structure for second story commercial and residential fires. Our third floor has a Class A burn room which provides the possibility for our members to see what it looks like training in smoke. We’ve also brought in outside agency instructors to share new training techniques. Anything to change it up a bit.”
Trollop believes the training structure is most valuable for new firefighters with minimal experience. They’re newer to the facility, so they have an unmatched opportunity to experience the heat of a fire while simultaneously feeling the stress of fighting the fire.
“Being able to feel that heat, in a controlled environment, safely allows the department the chance to use the structure as much as possible and provide great training,” says Trollop.
Upgrading for the Future
According to Trollop, the one drawback is that the interior walls are not moveable. When the structure was ordered two decades ago, it was chosen in a single configuration, making it hard to train on all the topics the current team would like to cover. To remedy that situation, the Harlem-Roscoe Fire Protection District hopes to upgrade the facility in the near future. Fire Facilities does offer a variety of movable wall systems that can be retrofitted into existing Fire Facilities structures. These include half wall/system mazes, full wall/system mazes and maze systems with working doors.
“We’re looking to add more Class A abilities,” says Trollop. “If possible, perhaps moveable interior walls. Certainly we’re looking into more props like a roof simulator, drafting pit, and flashover simulator. “After nearly 20 years this Fire Facilities structure has held up very well to continuous training. We expect to get many more years out of it. Now we’re ready to enhance the design by upgrading the facility to make the training experiences even more valuable for our firefighters.”