Burn building will help get firefighters prepared

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By Tom Wilmoth

Bedford area firefighters will soon have a new facility that will help them be better trained to fight fires and respond to emergency situations.

Construction of a burn building off Orange Street in Bedford should be finished later this month or in February. The cost of the building ? $430,000 including construction and engineering ? is being paid for through a grant from the Department of Fire Programs, applied for by the Bedford Fire Department. The facility will be used by all 12 independent fire departments in the city and county, representing some 705 volunteers.

The building will allow for live fire training for the firefighters, according to William Crumpacker, assistant fire chief with the BFD.

"It's not just going to benefit the Bedford Fire Department," Crumpacker said. "It's going to benefit the volunteers and the fire departments in the county. It's also going to benefit the citizens.

"You operate the way you train," he added, noting that fire departments routinely work together on a structural fire response. "If those two departments that are going to work together on a regular basis, train together, then they know when they pull up on a fire what the other department is doing, what the game plan should entail."

The burn building recreates a two-and-a-half story residential house, with an attached four-story tower, allowing for specialized rescue training and repel work. There are also features that help recreate the newer condo and garden apartment units becoming prevalent in the multi-family homes.

"We tried to put as many features into it as we're starting to see in the city and county," Crumpacker said.

The burn building will have a smoke generator, to help firefighters train in search and rescue without having a live fire. In the burn areas, pallets and straw will be burned for training. In the future, the plan is to install a propane burning system.

The metal structure will be lined with high temperature insulation panels in the rooms where actual fires will be set.

"We really looked at how we could get the most bang for our buck," Crumpacker said of the features included.

Crumpacker said the burn building will help train firefighters without having them have to be trained just on the job. "We want them to be well prepared so that when that citizen calls 911 to report a fire, when the folks show up they're well trained and well prepared to get the job done," he said.

Crumpacker said right now, those seeking Firefighter I or Firefighter II certification must travel to Roanoke or Lynchburg for training. He said the facility in Lynchburg is utilized by some eight area localities representing 40 firefighting organizations. That means taking time out of the county to go there and train. The new burn building will help eliminate that.

"We wanted to try and cut down on the travel time and make it more enticing for the volunteers to train," he said. "With the call volumes increasing and the training requirements increasing, there's just not the extra time to be able to do that."

In addition to the construction of the building, the hope is to run a water line from McGhee and Orange streets over to the building so that a hydrant can be put in place. When training is going on, two independent water sources are required. Two trucks can be used, but the water line and hydrant would limit the need to tie up only one truck during training.

The cost of that project is $35,000 and Crumpacker said a fund has been set up to help provide for that cost. The grant doesn't cover that part of the project.

Last month, Carter Williams of the Smith Mountain Lake Moose Lodge presented a $1,000 check to the department towards that project. So far about $2,500 has been raised and Crumpacker is hoping more organizations and businesses will help.

"We're trying to be creative in funding the project. We've contacted some corporations, fraternal organizations, other charitable organizations, to get people to buy into it," he said.

Those wishing to donate can do so through the Bedford Fire Department and earmark it to the Burn Building project.

The Burn Building project is just one of many supported by the SML Moose Lodge this past year. Other projects have included: Alzheimer's Association, $1,000; Bedford County Parks (Moneta Recreation), $2,000; Bedford County Sheriff (Grate Program), $500; Bedford Humane Society, $500; Bedford Ride, $1,000; Body Camp Re. Assoc., $500; Boy Scouts of America, $500; Franklin County Recreation (YMCA), $1,000; Hunters for the Hungry, $500; Huddleston Fire Company, $500; Huddleston Recreation, $525; Huddleston Rescue Squad, $500; Lake Christian Ministries, $1,500; Massey Cancer Fund, $500; Moneta Fire Department, $500; Moneta Rescue Squad, $500; Moose Charities (Endowment Fund), $500, Saunders Vol. Fire Department, $500; Scruggs Fire Department, $500; Smith Mountain Lake Marine Fire Department, $500; Stewartsville/Chamblissburg Recreation Department, $500; Special Olympics (Moose), $450; and Virginia Moose (Mooseheart Wells Fund), $500.

Crumpacker urged caution this winter as the temperatures cool down, the fuel prices increase and more people look to alternative heating sources such as space heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces. He said residents should have their chimneys cleaned and always leave three feet around kerosene and electric heaters clear of anything that will burn.

He added that those using kerosene heaters should make sure to have a window open because of carbon monoxide.

" The most important thing is to have a working smoke detector and an emergency plan for their home," he added.