CLINTON —The Clinton Fire Department is progressing with plans to build a multi-purpose training facility.

The Clinton Industrial/Municipal Training Facility will be used to conduct training for municipal departments, utilities and industry. This will assist agencies locally and regionally.

The facility will be located on 31/2 acres of city property at Ninth Street and 25th Avenue North. The first phase of the project includes excavation, paving, fencing and installation of training props including live fire training trailers, a 50-foot-by-50-foot mobile classroom donated by the Clinton School District and confined space props.

Clinton Fire Chief Mark Regenwether said Phase One of the project is expected to cost $481,320. The project was made possible through the CFD receiving 2006 Assistance to Firefighters Grant in the amount of $206,658 to be matched with city funds of $22,962 for a total of $229,620 and a 2007 Fund A Grant in the amount of $100,000 from the Clinton County Community Development Association. The facility will feature two live burn trailers including a multi-fire training structure and a hybrid trailer with half of the structure dedicated to fire investigation. The other half of the trailer will host non-fire props used in training exercises including forcible entry, ventilation and mayday exercises. Because the fire investigation trailer has a “blank canvas,” fire officials will be able to create various environments such as a kitchen complete with cabinetry and appliances to improve firefighters’ skills battling a wide range of variables. The unit has observation windows so those outside the structure can see what is going on and it can be used to demonstrate the fast and damaging effects of a fire.

“This way we can do a fire set up and you see what happens,” Regenwether said. “We can set up a living room set, put up a Christmas tree and set it off. People will be able to see what a fire can do.”

The trailers can be used individually or hooked together in a number of combinations so firefighters experience different live fire situations.

Clinton Fire Department Training Chief Andrew McGovern said the facility will provide firefighters the opportunity to gain much needed hands-on training and give them the minimum requirements needed to perform their duties.

“We only have two options at this time to meet mandated requirements: the state live fire training trailer here once a year or we have to send them to the Fire Service Training Bureau in Ames to obtain the necessary training.” McGovern said. “Now we'll be able to practice all the Firefighter-I, Firefighter-II and Fire Investigator skills right here.” He added that as of 2010, all firefighters will be required to obtain Firefighter I training before being released for active duty.

In conjunction with the trailers, the facility plans to feature a four-story tower which will be used in training exercises such as elevator rescues, ladder truck use, and rappelling from buildings.

“We don’t have the ability to do those often in real-life scenarios,” said McGovern.

The project is drawing support from local businesses and industries. Regenwether said the fire department is partnering with many entities to accomplish construction of the facility in the spirit of cooperation, mutual aid and cost-effectiveness. So far, the Clinton School District has donated a used mobile classroom and Iowa American Water Co. is discussing $27,500 worth of in-kind donations including installation of water mains and fire hydrants.

McGovern said a donation of manhole sections from the Water Pollution Control Department would allow for horizontal and vertical confined space training opportunities for firefighters and some municipal employees. Fire officials also want a prop for performing trench rescues, such as in the event of a digging collapse. Regenwether said the props will hone skills that firefighters and others currently don’t have an opportunity to practice.

“This way they can get used to how to do it, so if they make a mistake in a training environment, it’s not a deadly mistake and one that they can learn from,” he said.

The facility will have a large open area that can be utilized for driver training for the fire department drivers, law enforcement officers, municipal workers driving city buses or snow plows and much more.

“They will be able to learn and practice maneuvers in a safe and controlled area, instead of doing it on a city street or in a parking lot, like we do now,” Regenwether commented.

The CFD has applied for grants to perform live fire and extinguisher training in which not only firefighters, but industrial and municipal workers or citizens could participate in.

In addition to offering much larger storage capacity than is presently available to the fire department, one of the department's reserve fire engines will be housed at the facility to allow for reality-based scenarios.

“Then when we’re training, we won't have to take an active truck out of service,” said Regenwether. “If there is a fire in which we’ll need the reserve unit, we can always go and get it.”

Other interesting features of the facility that are in the works are an ambulance prop and a water tank. A box from the rear of an actual, out-of-service ambulance will be installed so emergency medical technicians and paramedics can polish their patient care skills in a realistic but controlled environment. A water tank will be installed at the site so the fire truck pumps can undergo hydrostatic testing. Regenwether said some of the props can be transported to regional fire departments, making it much easier to obtain skills that benefit local communities.

“This will help not only our personnel, but regional firefighters and others, to meet different OSHA requirements for training,” said Regenwether. “We also hope that area industries will utilize it for various training.”

He said the facility also could be utilized to offer classes through local community colleges. Regenwether said the CFD hopes to host National Fire Academy courses at the site sometime in the future.

Both fire officials say the new facility will be of great benefit to the entire region.

“Fire departments, municipalities, utilities and industries in Clinton and Clinton County, as well as Whiteside and Jackson Counties, will also be able to utilize these props,” McGovern said. “It will give us a nice place to work with other departments, to work on our mutual aid, as we’re becoming more and more dependent on each other all the time.”

The fire chief said there’s almost no limit to what situations firefighters and others could train for at the new facility.

“The capabilities are whatever you can think of,” said Regenwether. “It’s just a great opportunity for all of us... that we can all utilize.”

Regenwether said many people have contributed to the training facility project, but said McGovern is a driving force.

“Andy has been a great help. He has devoted a lot of time and effort on this project, from working on the plans to applying for grants,” said Regenwether.

He thanked the Federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program and the CCCDA for the grants that have made the project possible. Regenwether said the fire department continues to apply for grants in relation to funding the facility. He invited any local entities or businesses interested in contributing to the project to contact the fire department.

Within the next month, fire officials will be finalizing details for the facility and preparing bid specifications. Regenwether said the fire department plans to contact local industries in search of support for the facility, noting that making the project a joint venture provides greater opportunities for every entity involved and making the facility cost-effective. The project has been endorsed by the Clinton County Fire Chief’s Association, the Clinton County Emergency Medical Services Association and the Clinton County Police Chiefs Association. McGovern said Phase One of the training facility project will begin once bids for construction have been completed in the next couple of months.