September 27, 2012 |

New Spokane Fire District 3 training center will expand capabilities

Old shipping containers help firefighters lean to save lives and property

By PAUL DELANEY

Staff Reporter

To some the scene might look like the remnants of a wayward freight train that somehow veered off the tracks and deposited its containers in an orderly manner at the corner of SR 904 and Presley.

But to the residents of the mammoth area that Spokane County Fire District No. 3 serves – all 500-plus square miles of it – those former trans-ocean shipping containers might someday help save lives and property. The new training center is in the final stages of construction and will open soon.

District 3 Fire Chief Bruce Holloway said the containers represent the culmination of a long-term project to develop a training center for the district.

“Our training officer started looking at various companies that build them,” Holloway said. “We just happened to find a couple who do it this way.”

While unusual in looks, the method used by the district makes for a much less expensive facility compared to another type of structure, Holloway explained.

“We got into this for a fairly reasonable amount of money and it's just as functional as any other ones,” Holloway said. The structure alone cost the district $320,000, Holloway said. When everything is finished the center will pencil out at just over $400,000. “But that's a real bargain,” Holloway said. “Other outfits are spending $1 million.”

Hollaway was familiar with the concept from when he worked in a previous job. It was not shipping containers, but rather surplus items from oil wells, he said.

The new facility not only represents a bargain for the district but will also help save time for the 120 firefighters – most of them volunteers – who will not have to travel to the Spokane area to enhance their training.

Other training centers, one in the Spokane Valley, in Spokane and Fire District 9 on the north side are all at least 30 to 40 minutes from Cheney.

The construction style will also let trainers burn pallets that will be able to build heat and smoke in a confined area, making the training exercise that much more real.

“It's going to be a lot more safe environment than burning houses like we've always done in the past,” Hollaway explained.

The new facility will expand the type of training exercises Deputy Chief Bill and training coordinator Dennstaedt and can offer.

“We have the ability to put ladders up now on the structure we never had,” Holloway said. “We have the ability to do rope repelling so we can repel off of a high a structure.”

Walls can be built inside the various sections of the facility. “They can make it look like a house, they can make it look like a warehouse,” Holloway said.

Holloway sees the facility being used almost constantly. “All the stations will use it on an ongoing basis,” he said, probably two to three times a month he added.

District 3 includes 10 fire stations and was first formed in 1945. The district covers “About one-third of Spokane County, the southwest corner,” Holloway explained.

While at present the training center will serve only District 3, ultimately Holloway said he would like to open it to other departments to use, “for a small fee.” None of that has been decided yet.

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

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