It may look like a grouping of cargo containers, but for Turlock firefighters it’s an apartment complex next to the university, or a hotel near the freeway, or a house on Main Street or a suite of offices on Geer Road. Whatever it might be at the moment, the new training facilities at the fire department’s drill grounds will be used to enhance the skills of Turlock’s firefighters like never before.
The Live Fire Training Structure utilizes eight cargo containers that the fire department will be able to use for a variety of fire and rescue scenarios at their drill grounds on Walnut Road. The eight containers have been stacked and placed in a horseshoe design with stairs, railings and decking attached. Doors and windows will be added. It’s all designed so that the fire department can train new recruits and give seasoned veterans practice in live fire operations that they could possibly experience at any location around town.
The new facility replaces a small building that was decommissioned a few years back because of safety concerns. The previous burn room was built in 2004, and was set ablaze repeatedly over the years, with the numerous exercises causing significant damage, said Turlock Fire Division Chief of Training Brian White, who spearheaded the project. At one point the fire department tried to save the building by re-plastering it, but on the first test burn the ceiling came down.
“Luckily no one was hurt, but we did have to decommission the building,” White said. “The old structure left us pretty limited as to what type of training we could do. We did some research and found some departments were using shipping containers. They’re very versatile and they are low maintenance.”
The structure was designed and built by a team of engineers and an architect. It’s made of steel and is seismically sound. The cost of the project was $285,000.
“It’s as bullet-proof as we can make it,” White said.
Inside the structure the fire department can simulate multiple fire and rescue incidents, including multiple-story efforts. Those using the facility can experience the flames and thick smoke, while practicing how to move safely and effectively and learning how to vent the fires and the behavior of the flames.
“We have made it as realistic as possible to give our firefighters the best training we can,” White said. “It’s so much better than what we had. We are fortunate that we have a City Council and a mayor that saw the need for this and supported the project.”