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Fire structure construction moving forward

The Boulder City Fire Department’s desire to build a new training facility has taken a major step forward in becoming a reality.

During last week’s Boulder City Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, two items were unanimously approved for recommendation to City Council. The first was adoption and recommendation on a proposed amendment to the Master Plan Future Land Use Map to change the land use designation for approximately 4.42 acres southwest of 1101 Elm St. (behind the current fire station) from Mixed Use Commercial/Office to Public/Quasi-Public. The second was a recommendation on a proposed amendment to the Zoning Map to rezone the land from General Commercial to Government Municipal.

BCFD Chief Will Gray told the commission that the burn tower will have many uses and will be utilized by the police department as well.

“There are a lot of things we can do that do not include the burn element,” he said, noting that all burns will be contained within the enclosed structure.

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.

In an interview with Gray in May, he said 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 during that interview, 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.

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.

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. When asked by the commission as to how long it may take, he said, “In a perfect world, seven to 10 months. The reality is, getting local contractors to bid on it – I would be willing to bet about a year.”

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 in May. “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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