By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
The 53-foot simulator, received May 5 and parked at the Prospect Place Fire Station near the Deer Park area, is the first of its kind on the Peninsula, according to Fire District No. 2 Chief Sam Phillips.
It features three sections mimicking a couch fire, a kitchen fire and a long hallway fire.
The unit, which resembles a large travel-trailer, also includes movable walls that can be adjusted to train firefighters on different angles of attack, Phillips said.
All simulated fires in the unit are fed by propane burners controlled by a wireless handheld device.
All burners can be put out instantly using one of four emergency stops located around the trailer, Phillips said.
“Really, this is pretty groundbreaking for the local community,” he added.
The unit will allow firefighters to train locally instead of going to the fire training academy in North Bend in King County to maintain their certifications.
Firefighter cadets also must travel to North Bend for training. That costs the district between $250 and $300 per cadet in travel costs alone, Phillips estimated.
“[The simulator is] local, and it provides everything we need for our most important non-emergency function, which is training and being prepared,” Phillips said.
A $375,465 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, has helped Fire District No. 2 pay for the simulator, Phillips said.
The district contributed $19,761 to the $393,170 purchase price, he said, as the 5 percent match requirement for the grant.
The remaining grant funds, about $2,000, will be returned to FEMA, he added.
District No. 2 officials intend to approach other Peninsula fire agencies about using the training unit.
“That's our goal, [to] reach out to other agencies, and when we offer training sessions invite them either to participate as students or in some other fashion,” Phillips said.
If other districts want to use the simulator, District No. 2 will likely seek interlocal agreements with them, charge tuition on a per-use basis or use some combination of both to help cover the estimated $10,000 annual cost of operating and maintaining the unit, Phillips said.
“We're not going to charge exorbitant fees or anything, just enough to recoup costs and keep the unit maintained,” he said.
The unit also has smoke generators and built-in water pipes so firefighters can practice connecting water to in-building fire suppression systems, he said.
Firefighters also will be able to practice gaining access to burning structures by using breakable sheetrock walls and wooden ceilings that are part of the simulator, Phillips said.
Better than buildings
By burning propane, he said, the simulator is a more environmentally friendly alternative to setting donated buildings on fire for training.
“It's something that we can use for at least 10 years,” Phillips said.
“It's very promising for us to use a training tool for that long.”
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.