Fire departments investing in training structures want to get as much return-on-investment as possible. In the towns of Platteville and Gilcrest, CO., Division Chief of Training Herb George takes that directive very seriously.
“It’s all about how you change up the teaching scenarios with the base training structure,” says George, who has 44 years of fire service experience. “Black-out scenarios. Confined-space situations. Tricky laddering procedures. Different interior floor plans. Our goal is to make every training session realistic and challenging.”
Daily Training Scenarios
Since 2014 department members at Platteville-Gilcrest Fire Protection District have been fortunate to have their training on a dedicated two-acre site. The centerpiece of the location is The Commissioner training tower from Fire Facilities, Inc.
“We give this structure a good, strong workout continuously,” says George. “I’ve been here for five years, and during that time it’s held up really well.
“Not only are we training our people on this tower, but our law enforcement uses it for active shooter scenarios, plus canine training for explosives and drugs. Our EMS division and paramedics also use the facility. They train in conjunction as a whole department with us on our roll in drills.
“In addition, the Colorado State Patrol uses it for hostage training. Our Weld County Sheriff Department uses it routinely for their team members. Then we opened it up as a free opportunity to six fire departments in our area several years ago for their training. Close to 200 people train each year on The Commissioner in a wide array of scenarios.”
Realistic Burn Training
According to George, the Class A burn cribs are one of the most realistic aspects of training within The Commissioner. Firefighters appreciate the higher temperatures attainable in the burn areas that resemble real-life scenarios they experience on fire locations. His district includes 144 square miles that oftentimes host intense wildfires and brush fires, so he wants his people to “feel the heat” of high-level burn situations.
“There’s good levels of fire, heat, smoke and visibility in The Commissioner,” says George. “This allows us to create real-life situations.”
For the veteran firefighter, the fact that The Commissioner has four levels gives him a multitude of training ideas. “We can maneuver the space on a daily basis,” says George, “The tower makes it easy to switch from aerial to ground ladders. Dozens of unique training sessions can be staged. It’s a really good workout for our people.”
Making a Good Thing Even Better
While George appreciates the design of The Commissioner, he’s looking ahead to fine-tuning the structure in the near future. Plans are underway to relocate the standpipe to make the interior setup more realistic.
“There’s also an open stairway right now that I’d love to get enclosed,” says George. “That would more accurately duplicate situations we encounter in our area.
“The other thing we’d like to do is update to stronger forcible entry doors. My advice to anyone purchasing a training structure would be to upgrade and purchase the best forcible entry doors you can afford. These doors are a critical training element. The stronger the doors, the better trained your people will be in the field to handle what they come up against.”