Pa. training complex opens in a blaze of glory

By Karen Kane
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pennsylvania)
Copyright 2006 P.G. Publishing Co.

Cranberry celebrated the completion of a $350,000 public safety training complex, not with champagne toasts and speeches but with fire and heavy equipment.

Fire personnel put on a show for township officials Oct. 24 that turned a spotlight on the training site, which has a four-story fire tower as its focal point.

In addition to Cranberry's fire department, at least a half-dozen departments that provide mutual aid to Cranberry are expected to use the site.

"I think we'll see everyone here from Big Knob to Marshall, to Valencia, to Evans City. We see it as a regional asset," Cranberry Public Safety Director Steve Mannell said, noting that no fire station would be charged for the practice sessions. "We'll all be practicing together. It benefits everyone."

The 3.4-acre site, behind the Route 19 fire station and adjacent to the public works building and salt shed, includes a police firing range and two concrete pads.

"This is a significant asset because it gives us a place to practice specific skills that we've not been able to use in the past," Mr. Mannell said.

The demonstration session was the firefighters' first use of the fire tower, which had been under construction since April. The concrete pads have been in use for about a year.

At the demonstration, firefighters simulated a car fire by placing a vehicle over a propane burner on a concrete pad. They simulated a car accident on the second pad, showing one car on its side and another with frozen doors and entrapment. They generated a smoke-like fog from the fire tower, allowing firefighters to vent the roof of the tower to demonstrate firefighting techniques that would be used in a house fire.

The township began planning for a training complex to give emergency responders what Mr. Mannell described as a convenient place to go for proficiency training. He said the training complex did not replace or compete with the Butler County Fire Academy on the campus of Butler County Community College.

"We're not going to be providing the kind of formal training they give. We see our facility as an opportunity to sharpen proficiency skills," he said.

The facility represents an investment of more than $300,000. The fire tower cost $322,513 to build. The concrete pads cost about $10,000, with plumbing for the pads costing about $4,000. There's no estimate on the investment of manpower. Firefighters installed the plumbing, Mr. Mannell said.

The next step is construction of an 80-seat classroom building, which is planned for 2009. Mr. Mannell said the most recent cost estimate was $230,000. The police department has pledged $180,000, and the fire department has promised $50,000.

Though the fire tower hadn't been used by the fire department until the demonstration other than to ensure the equipment in the building was functioning, Mr. Mannell said, the police department used it to simulate building entries a few times. "We're all going to get a lot of use out of the site,'' he said. 

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