County eyes three sites for proposed fire safety training b…


ELIZABETHTOWN | The Essex County Public Safety Committee took steps to find the right site for a proposed fire safety training building, a project that won $500,000 in grant funding through state Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury) last April.

An initial list of five possible sites has been narrowed down to two plus an alternative. 

A section of town-owned property in Elizabethtown across from the Elizabethtown Volunteer Fire Department station is in consideration. The site has access to town water but no sewer.

There could be space near the Essex County Fairgrounds in Westport, which has water and possible sewer access, but is situated near the school on a fairground that is also in the process of adding events through a major new marketing push.

County officials are also considering a section of the undeveloped Westport Industrial Park area, a property encompassing eight acres off Route 22, near Bessboro Builders, which has neither town water nor sewer.

All would be central to the county, allowing reduced travel time for fire companies that have to bring personnel with all their gear and heavy equipment to the fire training events.

EXPENSE QUESTIONED

Essex County Emergency Services Director Don Jaquish said the Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff-elect David Reynolds have expressed interest in sharing use of the facility for training in active shooter scenarios.

The building itself is expected to cost between $450,000 to $500,000.

“It comes as a kit,” Jaquish told supervisors on Monday.

The price includes minimal site work, basically four-foot-deep footers and a concrete slab.

The goal in choosing the right site, Jaquish said, is to keep costs for site testing or preparation low.

The fire training facility would be built to specifications set by an Emergency Services Department committee that has selected a fire training building layout, one modeled closely after what Madison County built last year.

“We need to pick a site,” Moriah Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava urged in the meeting on Monday.

“Let’s just pick a site and get this done with.”

But some supervisors questioned the expense. Willsboro Supervisor Shaun Gillilland, contender for next Board of Supervisors chairman, asked how often the new facility would be used.

“Why?” he asked of the need for a central location.

Jaquish said the drive time to Clinton County or south to Glens Falls or even to the training site in Lake Placid is long for volunteer firefighters from southern or western ends of the county.

SIMULATION CENTER

Personnel from volunteer fire companies in Ticonderoga, Minerva and Crown Point, for example, travel 1.5 to 2 hours each way for training in fire simulation conditions.

“You wouldn’t get students to travel, for one,” Jaquish told Gillilland.

Already Essex County fire departments face a crisis in volunteer recruiting.

Minerva Supervisor Stephen McNally, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, questioned whether the $500,000 would be money well spent.

“Or would it be better to put into the Cornell (Cooperative Extension) building (at the fairgrounds)?” he asked.

Scozzafava disagreed emphatically.

“You need a training center that is in the center of the county,” Scozzafava said. “This isn’t rocket science.”

Volunteer fire services would be most upset if it’s not built, Jaquish said, given the design review, planning and grant funds already in place.

Fire safety training facilities are built to provide countless training scenarios involving live fire and smoke situations. 

Some can be fitted to replicate HazMat scenarios or live shooter encounters. 

Part of the holdup in finding a site is the need for compaction tests to see if the soil at any site is suitable for a concrete foundation.

North Elba Supervisor Roby Politi suggested the county ask Department of Public Works Deputy Superintendent Jim Dougan to test the three sites discussed.

Lewis Supervisor Jim Monty moved the resolution to floor. 

The decision was approved in committee with no further discussion and no dissenting vote.

INSIDE LOOK

The “building” is pre-fabricated, often two or more stories high. 

It can be set up to allow firefighters to learn how to effect proper response involving many tools that require live fire training for certification: use of self-contained breathing apparatus (like Scott packs); thermal imaging cameras and related search equipment; fire entry gear; fire growth and expansion scenarios that help train situational awareness; and various search and rescue techniques for both potential victims and fellow firefighters.

The training “towers” are sometimes referred to as “burn buildings,” according to building manufacturers. 

Made of materials such as steel or concrete, they use bursts of flame and smoke in strategic locations, which can be changed for each session.

Props can be installed to simulate fire in a typical home or office building, placing items such as a couch or bed or kitchen stove in the room, or heating and fuel storage equipment. 

Smoke infiltration set-ups in a “burn building” can mimic various conditions: Some have wall “breach props,” for example, that train fire personnel how to escape by cutting their way out if they have to, utilizing practice wall panels.

Interior and exterior stairways also help train firefighters how to access flames on upper floors, while facing threats as fire spreads. The building is fitted with hooks that also teach firefighters how to rappel off a multi-story roof safely with bail-out ropes, which are mandatory equipment now on all firefighter bunker gear. 

“It is required that interior firefighters qualify by doing live firefighter training in a live fire training facility,” Jaquish told the Sun.

The burn buildings can also track and calculate time for entry and fire response with monitoring equipment, helping to reduce potential for error. 

Some are able to simulate flash over or rollover scenarios.

The Essex County Fire Training Facility is planned ideally at two stories, Jaquish said.

“It would have a home layout with hatch doors to teach people to use a tripod for rescue. It would be used for Confined Space Team training for scenarios such as sewer rescue. We have an excellent Confined Space Team, but they have to train in Glens Falls,” Jaquish told the Sun

The building would have two burn rooms, one on the first floor and one on the second floor, Jaquish said.

“We can change it around and use different parts of the building for various firefighter courses,” Jaquish said. 

“The sheriff’s department expressed interest in using the building for active shooter or domestic violence response scenarios.

“The one that Madison County designed is the version we want. It’s affordable and we would seek bids from various fire training building companies.”

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