St. Charles Herald-Guide

Firefighters battle blazes at hi-tech training center

By Jonathan Menard - December 16, 2011

For years, firefighters in St. Charles Parish were forced to train at dead end streets or abandoned buildings, and while they were able to learn the basic skills of fighting fires, the important skills could only be learned on the job.

But after the construction of a $1.2 million training center in Luling, firefighters will be able to simulate rescue missions by traveling through a maze, cut steel bars with a K-12 saw, rappel down a four-story tower and practice walking on a collapsible floor.

"Itís a Cadillac," Patrick Beard, chief of the Luling Volunteer Fire Department, said of the new facility.

The St. Charles Firefighter Training Facility allows firefighters to battle fires started inside stainless steel rooms. The live burn building features two full burn rooms that can be set on fire using pallets and hay, a kitchen stove fire simulator and a moveable search rescue maze system.

The building also has wall, ceiling and roof chop outs, forcible entry doors, collapsible floor simulators and a rappelling tower for trainees.

Trapped firefighters can practice cutting their way out of a house or clearing an exit for smoke to escape.

"Smoke is fuel, and with it accumulating, temperatures reach a point where everything can combust," Beard said. "Getting rid of the smoke removes heat, gets rid of a potential hazard and increases visibility so that firefighters can see people in need of rescue."

While many of the obstacles help firefighters train for hazards they would face at a residential or business fire, the facility will also give them the training they need to practice cutting someone out of a vehicle or learn how to save someone who has fallen down a drainage pipe or sewer.

The construction of the training facility has already lowered premiums paid by Luling businesses and homeowners for fire insurance coverage. Last month, thanks largely to the facility, the fire rating for the Luling Volunteer Fire Department was lowered from a class 4 to a class 3.

The facility was constructed using $750,000 from the Luling departmentís general budget and a loan for $500,000, which will be budgeted over a 10-year span. Dow provided a $10,000 community grant that helped build a pavilion that will function as an outdoor classroom while land for the facility was donated by Monsanto.

Though the center, located on 2.3 acres of property off Paul Maillard Road, is owned by the Luling Volunteer Fire Department, Beard said the parishís nine other volunteer departments will be able to use the facility.

The Luling fire department is required to perform eight training sessions a year at the new building.

This $1.2 million training center puts firefighters into real-life emergency situations and has a live burn building, a kitchen stove simulator and a moveable search rescue maze system.
Thelezia Folse
This $1.2 million training center puts firefighters into real-life emergency situations and has a live burn building, a kitchen stove simulator and a moveable search rescue maze system.