Do-It-Yourself Live-Burn Training Center for Lamar Fire Dept.

Conexes for Training Facility

Conexes for Training Facility

The Lamar Fire Department and Emergency Response Team have been at work since this past winter, building a permanent burn training center east of the city landfill. Lamar Fire Chief Marshall Cook said he expects the two story unit will be ready to be put to use later this spring or early summer. 

Operational by Spring or Early Summer

Operational by Spring or Early Summer

The building is comprised of two lengthy metal conex structures, donated to the city by Dragon Enterprises.  Volunteers from city departments such as water, engineering and public works have put their time, effort and ingenuity into creating the center which can be used over and over again for different training scenarios.  Cook said the department can no longer afford to use a controlled burn in the city’s neighborhoods as a training event.  “A house may become available through a donation, but the costs involved, including asbestos testing and potential insurance claims have ended the practice,” he explained. 

“The department has a $1,000 insurance deductible for any potential property damage to adjacent houses or land,” he said, “and we can’t afford to go over budget for several training events.”  A turnkey training center costs around $250,000 to purchase and construct, but only around $25,000 has been spent on the Lamar facility from in kind donations and using $17,000 allocated from a Capital Improvement Fund.  The city water department installed two fire hydrants and recently concrete was poured to anchor an outdoor staircase on the building.  All the labor involved has been local and volunteered. 

The conex units are about 10 feet wide and 40 feet long and are stacked on top of each other to create a two story structure, linked with indoor and outdoor steps.  “We’re adding trap doors and angled roofing to give the firefighters experience with venting roofs for structure fires,” Cook said, describing a procedure when a hole is cut into a roof to vent fire and smoke and help prevent a fire from spreading through an attic.  The department used that tactic several years ago to prevent a spreading blaze when an apartment complex between South 12 and 13th Streets caught fire.  Cook said he wants to make the training sessions as close to the real thing as he can.  “We have used a maze in which firefighters are blindfolded and have to navigate that obstacle course, but the new center will create a sense of realism with added heat and noise during the sessions,” he explained.

2011 Apartment Fire

2011 Apartment Fire

“Having a local burn training center will also help cut costs when we certify our own members,” he explained.  The fire chief said the local facility will eliminate travel, food and overnight expenses for trips to Denver at the next nearest facility.  “We’ll also open the center to other departments in southeast Colorado who want to come and train their department members,” he added.  Cook said this will also eliminate leaving the department staff reduced during Front Range certification sessions. 

Another cost factor involved in the center’s construction involves the city’s ISO insurance rating.  The lower the rating, the less insurance homeowners are usually charged on their household premiums.  “Right now, we’re at 5 for the City of Lamar,” Cook said.  “When you factor in the recent efforts made by the water department and upgrades in the infrastructure and the fire apparatus the city owns, and now the training facility, these events are considered when we’re rated and any upgrade could help us attain a 4 rating.”  He added, “This Live Burn Facility will factor in eight additional points from the 100 we’re assigned for our rating.  The fire department receives 50, our water distribution system with hydrants and storage tanks is worth 40 and the 911 Call Center is another 10 points.  Right now we’re about one-half of one percent from attaining a four rating.”  Cook said part of our five status is because the city has five response engines that produce an aggregate of 3,500 gallons of water per minute for combating fires.  “We’ve been at a five status for as long as I’ve been with the department, about 30 years, and any improvements we make will help attain a four rating and eventually,  lower insurance premiums.”  The chief said a future ascertainment could come this summer and will be based just on the recent improvements and not a total re-evaluation. 

Cook said his department is talented in that some members are taking junk from the city’s transfer station and converting the scrap metal into useful equipment.  One example was the creation of storage boxes that have been installed in a fire department command vehicle.  “We took discarded stop signs, cut and welded them and coated them with a rhino lining and we’re using them as built-in boxes to store away equipment, he said, adding, “It also helps to keep us within the department’s budget.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: communityCountyEconomyFeaturedFire Department-RespondersGranadaHollyLamarProwers CountyPublic SafetyWiley


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