By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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The structure, built of nine shipping containers stacked four containers high, three wide at the base and one at the very top, is the beginning of an emergency services training tower built by East Jefferson Fire-Rescue, said Assistant Chief Ted Krysinski.
The completed structure is about four stories high — approximately the height of the majority of taller buildings in downtown Port Townsend, Krysinski said.
“It will be used for practice scenarios above the first floor,” he said.
East Jefferson's training facility at Fire Station 1-5, 35 Critter Lane also has other training structures and features, including automobile extrication, ditches for trench rescue and a rainwater runoff pond that freezes over every year, used for ice rescue training, he said.
Once complete in 2014, containers will eventually have doors to the outside and between containers, windows, stairs, lights and movable walls to configure the interior of the containers to change training scenarios, Krysinski said.
He said that he expects the tower to be usable for training by January, and it will be complete and painted a few months later.
A traditional five-story cement training tower can cost as much as $1.3 million to construct, and prefabricated container structures similar to East Jefferson's new tower cost between $250,000 and $330,000, Krysinski said.
“Container towers are more prevalent,” he said, and noted that recently, when old cement towers are retired, they are being replaced with the modular structures.
Krysinski said the department spent about $10,000 preparing the site, and purchased seven used containers for a total of $21,000. An eighth container used in the structure was purchased by the department for self-contained breathing apparatus training.
To reduce costs, firefighters roughed out the openings, which will simulate several storefronts with upper-story apartments, he said.
Additional welding work to secure the containers together, build staircases and doorways, and other structural work will be completed by certified welders, with a final cost of about $40,000.
Much of the cost of the tower will be covered by a $380,000 federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant, a firefighter safety training grant received by the department in 2010.
A portion of the grant, which was divided in five parts for a variety of training purposes, was reserved for the container tower project, Krysinski said.
Krysinski said training is a part of a Navy-developed program called “recognition-primed decision making,” in which rescuers are presented with as many training scenarios as possible, so that when they are faced with similar situations in a real emergency, it will be familiar and less threatening, allowing instinct to take over.
The roughed-out structure will immediately be usable for placing ladders on the exterior, positioning of fire equipment, and other training that doesn't require activity inside, he said.
The tower training will not include live fires, he said, except for small, contained fires to be used with hand-held extinguishers, because the metal containers will lack heat management systems.
East Jefferson has used a fire training trailer owned by the Naval Magazine Indian Island fire department for annual training sessions with live fire.
Training partnerships, such as the one between East Jefferson and Indian Island, will continue, and the training tower will be made available to other Jefferson county fire departments, law enforcement agencies, and other emergency workers for drills and exercises.
Among the possibilities being considered for the tower include evacuation and fire extinguisher drills for civilian employees in Port Townsend, he added.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.