Like children with a new toy, Payson firefighters gleefully explored their new $170,000 training facility Tuesday, crawling through crammed passages, breaking down doors and setting fire to one room, only days after receiving it.
Don’t worry though, the facility was meant to be used and abused.
Two sturdy metal storage crates make up the fire training facility, which simulates a variety of situations firefighters face. From learning to use a self-contained breathing apparatus in a smoke-filled building to navigating a maze, breaking though a wall, door or roof, putting out a fire, using a ladder or rescuing a victim, the facility simulates all levels of training in a controlled environment.
Payson Battalion Chief Thomas Fife said acquiring the new training digs “is major.”
“The opportunity to conduct training in a realistic setting is so important to the development of our skill proficiency and our continued enhancement of firefighter safety,” Fife said.
Depending on the training, the facility is completely adjustable. Walls can be moved, exits blocked, lights removed and smoke injected.
Trainers even have the option of pulling the rug literally out from underneath. The fire department invited this unsuspecting reporter to crouch through the dark maze, only to have the floor drop suddenly several inches.
While this seemed more like a funhouse than a training facility, Fife said it all serves a purpose; a falling floor, for example, gives firefighters confidence.
Before acquiring the facility, the fire department trained in abandoned buildings.
“It is pretty rare to have this,” Fife said. “Most fire departments do not have a training facility.”
In the future, the PFD would like to move the facility from the town yard to a permanent location where more units could be added on.
Fire Chief Marty deMasi said the facility is great place for firefighters to test their skills.
Since the fire department responds mostly to medical calls, training regularly for fires is crucial, said firefighter Jerome Lubetz.
“Everything depends on the basics,” he said.
Surrounding fire departments will also have the opportunity to use the facility.
Besides training, the PFD is currently working on building a water tender truck. Last year they purchased a chassis from a military surplus auction.
Next, they need to buy a water tank and pump and put it together. deMasi estimates the project should cost less than $30,000, $170,000 less than a new truck and allow the department to take on more wildland fire assignments.