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City moves forward on fire tower, firefighter training facility

Seeking to ensure the best service for the community and training for its firefighters, the Boulder City Council last week gave the nod for a new training facility for the Boulder City Fire Department.

Council approved funding in the amount of $1.2 million for a training tower, which will be placed behind the existing station on Elm Street.

BCFD Chief Will Gray said this week that fire departments are required by the company that sets insurance ratings to participate in an array of training, and a minimum of hours doing so, throughout the year.

Currently BCFD has 24 full-time firefighters and a reserve group that fluctuates between 10 and 20. Gray said that prior to his arrival three years ago, a lot of the required training was not being met because firefighters did not have access to training facilities. The fire department would use Henderson’s training tower. This is not ideal being that the department has to pay firefighters overtime for them to go because they’d have to do it on their own time to avoid staffing shortages in their absence.

“To move 40 people on their days off to Henderson and back to train is very expensive,” Gray said, adding that for one, four-hour day at the burn tower it costs the city an estimated $40,000 in overtime pay.

In recent years, some training was conducted at the old Boys and Girls Club next to the Boulder City Library. While it met some of the department’s needs, burning within the building was not possible. Now, Henderson’s tower is no longer allowed to be burned in, which means Boulder City crews have to do fire tower training in North Las Vegas.

Gray said structure fires are considered a high-risk, low occurrence in Boulder City. Because they don’t occur often, he said frequent training is a necessity to keep those skills sharp and to help avoid injury.

“The plan is to build a two-story training tower that allows us to do all the things we need to do,” he said. “This way they can do their training while on duty and avoid paying overtime. In the long-term, it saves the city a tremendous amount of money because the tower will be there for decades.”

While there are about 20 to 25 calls a year for a fire within a structure, that is different from a full-blown structure fire, which occurs around six to 12 times a year.

The new tower will be used for technical rescue, natural gas leaks, search training, extrication, hazardous material spills and even aviation rescue. In addition, the Boulder City Police Department will use it for active-shooter training.

“It’s a lot more than just a fire tower,” Gray said.

There is no exact start date for construction but this project is in the fiscal year 2023-24 budget, which begins July 1. Gray said they will soon seek bids for the project. He was told by one designer that work could take about four months to complete since most comes in kits.

Towers are built with interior fire panels that can sustain temperatures of upward of 3,000 degrees. These panels are replaced every 15 to 20 years in larger departments and are expected to last even longer here.

“This type of training facility makes the city safer,” Gray said. “A better-trained firefighter makes a much safer response for everybody.”

Contact editor Ron Eland at reland@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523.

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