A new structure has gone up next to the Chadron Volunteer Fire Department’s training center, one which will allow firefighters the opportunity to train in a variety of scenarios.
Chadron Volunteer Fire Department member Pat Gould said the process for the new three-level building began when the CVFD became the recipient of the Bud and Martha Deans Estate. The idea was to set up a training ground and classroom area.
“At the time, when we got the estate, we really weren’t in need of mobile equipment like rescue units or things like that,” Gould said, “so we just invested the money.” Then in 2010, he noted the large training facility was established at Sixth Street and Arrow Drive. A couple bathrooms and a storage room were framed in by the department, and Pine Ridge Job Corps students finished framing the classroom. Students also put in a mezzanine above the classroom space, providing space for exercise equipment.
One of the ideas as things progressed, Gould said, is that if Region 23 might need an emergency operations facility. This building could be used, so when it was built it was set up with a sufficient number of electrical outlets for them to use. Examples of such incidents include the large scale fires in the area in 2006 and 2012, during which federal teams responded.
The department was also left in the Bud and Lila Young Estate. “Bud was a retired fireman,” Gould said, “and we were left in his estate.” They were also left in the Moon Mullens and Stan Schmeckle estates. Money from the estates, as well as from the last four CVFD fund drives, were put toward the new tri-level structure. The fund drives, Gould noted, brought in an average of $15,000-20,000 per year. They also received a $4,000 donation from a private group and $20,000 from a private citizen.
It was the money from the community and the estates that made the facilities possible, Gould said, also expressing appreciation to Larry, Thelma and Mike Provance for donating the land, and Marty Connealy’s keeping the department in mind when people asked him about estate planning. Gould emphasized any money the department has received has been invested back into the community.
Gould explained the department has been in contact with American Fire Training Systems out of Lemont, Ill. since 2016. The money was there for the new building, and American Fire came up with the concept. The firm sets up 50-70 of such facilities each year around the world, using brand-new shipping containers and modifying them to what an individual or organization wants.
The new building provides advantages for more than just the CVFD. Gould said, “One of the strong points is this is going to affect our Insured Services Office (ISO) rating for individual homeowners and property owners within the City of Chadron and the Rural Fire District.” He further explained ISO comes out about every 10 years and surveys fire departments on items including training records, responses, staff, number of engine, ladder and rescue companies, and availability for water supply in rural areas.”
They also look at the City water department, examining availability of pumps and storage facilities, age of water mains and hydrants, and maintenance records. The building and zoning departments are also examined, as well as the 911 communications center.
“There’s a lot that goes into this ISO rating,” Gould said. “It’s not just the fire department. It’s the whole gamut of everything.” The ISO rating is on a 10-point scale, with 1 being the best. Chadron is at a 3 within five miles of the fire station, and a 6 outside that range. The new training capabilities will certainly help the rating within the five miles, and Gould noted the department recently acquired a 6,000-gallon semi-tanker through the Nebraska Forest Service. The new vehicle will improve water availability in rural areas, which will reflect positively on the ISO rating.
In speaking with ISO, Gould said, it was determined the CVFD would get full credit for a training facility if it is more than three stories, hence the current configuration. While one of the storage boxes could’ve been stood vertically and reach the necessary height, it wouldn’t be as usable.
The basic structure of the boxes provides adequate space to set up burn rooms, though a tracking system with 19 panels occupies one of the ground-level rooms. These panels allow for different “maze” configurations for search and rescue training. Panels also have different shapes and sizes of openings to further test people on how to navigate them.
On the outside of the second floor there’s a roof assembly with a 4/12 pitch directly above the first floor burn room. This provide a chance to simulate cutting holes in a roof and venting a fire.
The interior as well as exteriors have stairs to access each floor, and the top level also has hooks for ladders and rappel lines. A standpipe in the bottom two levels allows firefighters to hook in lines fed by a truck. Gould noted lights could also be put into the building and run via generator.
As for starting the fires in the burn rooms, which have insulated steel panels, Gould explained there are two burn carts. Each has space for two wooden pallets and some straw. The fire vents into a hood over the cart, simulating the “flash over” effect. The carts, he noted, are designed to get up to about 1,500 degrees, though burning a couple pallets will bring the temperature up to 900-1,000 degrees.
Not just limited to use by the CVFD, Gould said the new facility is open to any public safety organization that wants to use it.
“With the estates we were left in and the ability to use some of that money, we were able to finance this thing. And then, with our public fund drives, if it wouldn’t have been for all those this thing would’ve never came to attrition,” Gould said. “I think this has been a goal for this fire department for the last 50 to 60 years, to have something permanent like this that they can use.”