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New fire training facility open for business

by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
Thunderbolt editor
Photo by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman

An opening ceremony will be held today at 9 a.m. for MacDill's new Structural Fire Simulation Facility. The four-story building on the east side of the flightline is a major upgrade for the way firefighters here train, said Chief Ken Ploense, 6th Civil Engineer Squadron assistant chief of firefighter training.

"We haven't had anything like this before. We would use vacant condemned buildings and artificial smoke to get it as realistic as possible," said Chief Ploense. "Now with this new trainer, we can use propane to actually feel the heat... anywhere between 800 to 1000 degrees (fahrenheit.)"

Each floor of the facility can be used for various types of training, said Chief Ploense. On the first floor there is a simulated kitchen where proper oven-fire suppression techniques are taught. A major safety feature of the training facility is the fires are computer controlled. If anyone is injured or the blaze reaches dangerous temperatures, the safety programs already dialed onto the software will automatically shut down the fuel and stop the fire, said Chief Ploense.

Up a set of stairs to the second floor is a space used for Class A fires such as wood, paper or fabric fires, which can typically are found in waste baskets or cabinets. The third floor is vacant for now but the chief said he plans to fill it with furniture to train for confined space rescue, where life-size dummies weighing up to 300 pounds must be extracted from the scene.

The fourth floor must be accessed by ladder and has low ceilings to simulate attic spaces. Additionally, there is access to the roof via an overhead hatch. Rappelling anchors there will be used for high-angle rescue down the outside of the structure.

At an estimated cost of $225,000, WRG Fire Simulators from Sherwood, Ore., broke ground on the project 14 months ago. This new facility isn't exclusive to MacDill and Air Mobility Command has authorized their installation and use at AMC bases nationwide, said Chief Ploense.




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