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At Issue: Innovative Firefighter Training Space - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

At Issue: Innovative Firefighter Training Space

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WILLISTON, Vt. -

This isn't your run-of-the-mill fire station. It took a dozen years to design and build before opening in 2007.

The price tag was $4.2 million.

"Isn't just for today, and for the last nine years, but something that will last the next 50 or 60 years," says Williston Fire Chief Ken Morton.

With more than three decades of experience, Morton had a heavy hand in the building's design.

"At the time we first started to design it, we were starting to hear training by design. And that training by design concept has really grown over the last number of years and we're at the forefront of that," he says.

Now that the fire station is open, that training by design has turned into training by practice. Firefighters use this facility to simulate emergency situations any time of the year.

One of the most common drills happens about once a month. Firefighters get into their truck and head up three stories in a basket. Then they go to an open window where they simulate rescuing a fire victim. From there the victim is safely brought back down.

Captain Tim Gerry told us drills like these are very important.

"It all comes down to muscle memory. The more you can do something, then when it actually comes time to do it, you're not even thinking about what you're doing," he says.

Firefighters put on all of their gear. The drills simulate exactly what it feels like on a call.

Another common practice is laddering. Firefighters head up the ladder, go through a simulated open window, then use a tool to make sure the floor is secure.

After that, they make sure there are no victims around.

Firefighters often practice this drill in more challenging conditions.

"We progressively make it more difficult for the firefighter; we'll seal up the windows; we'll add a smoke machine for smoke conditions, and we will also add victims in and be able to remove that victim and place them on a ladder to a safe area," Gerry says.

But the drills don't stop there.

"We built into a storage area the ability to remove a hole opening in the floor to simulate a confined space entry," he says.

Firefighters practice here about four times a year. A tripod houses ropes and pulleys which can be used to send a firefighter into the small space below, where they rescue a trapped person. There's also a large tube which provides a fresh air source.

And then there's a drill that simulates accessing a fire on an upper-level floor.

Firefighters connect their hose into a stand-pipe system, which exists in many multi-level buildings and allows the firefighters to get closer to the fire with less equipment. Then they charge the hose with water.

Firefighters are able to run up to 150 feet of their hose down the hallway. In real life, they would stop at the fire.

It's the fire station's design that makes all of these drills possible, because they never know when all of that practice is going to be put to real-world use.

The Williston Fire Department's building is having an impact at other fire stations. Chief Morton says he's had people from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and other towns in Vermont visit to see its design and use some of the design concepts.

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