Top-notch fire training facility opens

  • Published
  • By Ilka Cole
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs
Firefighters from the 96th Civil Engineer Group rappelled from the top of their new structural training facility to cut the ribbon marking its official opening here March 1.


The new fire training facility, dubbed “The Assistant Fire Chief” replaces the previous burn house.


“This is truly a state of the art facility. We’re very proud to cut the ribbon today and put it into service,” said Mark Giuliano, Eglin fire chief. “Our firefighters have been eager to use it since the day it was done, but we held off.  We wanted the people who helped support us to take a look at it first.”


The training facility allows for multiple diverse firefighting scenarios to provide realistic training opportunities.


Inside the building, walls can be moved to change the configuration of the rooms creating the various scenarios to meet the training needs. Firefighters can put out actual live fires and experience high fire temperatures first-hand in the first and second floor burn rooms.


“It won’t be the same scenario every time, live fire training isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Firefighting is dangerous work,” said the fire chief.


To prepare for dangerous operations, the facility supports high-angle rescue operations, laddering, rappelling, roof penetration, helo deployment training simulations, and floor collapse.


The $680,000 training facility is also equipped with 5,000 pound rappelling anchors and the only four-story fire training elevator shaft in Northwest Florida.


“One of the primary needs identified was the lack of an elevator shaft,” said Joseph Suddarth, 96th Civil Engineer Group, assistant fire chief for training.  “The only time we could train in an elevator shaft is when an elevator was out of service. That became one of our primary add-ins.”


Suddarth designed the state-of-the-art facility and ensured every National Fire Protection Agency live fire requirement was met.


The assistant fire chief for training considered what firefighting might look like in 25 years and took into account the training needs and current burn houses in the local firefighting communities to create the new building.


Suddarth visited community partners from Pensacola to Tallahassee to learn about burn house designs to determine training needs and incorporate those features.


“We’re going to welcome our local partners outside the gate to train here like we do with our aircraft fire training,” said Giuliano. “They’ve already expressed an interest in coming out to use the new facility and we’re glad we can do that for them.”