Fire training center to get $1M upgrade

Posted: Friday, January 15, 2010

Fire fighters have a dangerous enough job as it is, so the city decided it was time to make its fire training center safer with a $1 million renovation.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

The Hagevig Regional Fire Training Center in the Mendenhall Valley has been undergoing a much-needed renovation by Silverbow Construction, a project funded by state grant money.

The renovation, which is scheduled to be completed in the spring, will make the facility safer and allow the city to use short-term maintenance funds for other community expenses during these uncertain economic times, City Manager Rod Swope said.

"We were beginning to run the risk of not being able to safely use the facility anymore if we didn't make improvements," he said.

The renovation began in the summer and will include improved lighting, electrical, ventilation and wastewater upgrades and extensive work to the cracked and crumbling exterior walls, Capital City Fire & Rescue Division Chief Rich Etheridge said.

"Most of that is exterior walls that have been beaten by the weather for so long," he said. "You have high heat on one side and cold weather on the other side, and things just don't expand and contract very well."

The facility allows firefighters to conduct live fire training inside the structure, typically inside cutoff 55-gallon barrels or inside steel pans. The facility also has an engine room that can simulate maritime fires inside ships.

"It's usually contained and they're not real huge," Etheridge said of the controlled fires. "It's more just to get some heat and smoke in there and give them a target to go after."

The facility is in high demand during the summer, he said. It is used for training by CCCR as well as the Juneau Police Department, U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska State Troopers, cruise ship firefighters and by the State of Alaska.

"The place gets a lot of use by a lot of different agencies," Etheridge said.

The facility was built by the state in the early 1980s before it was handed over to the city.

"Once we took it over, it was our responsibility to maintain and run it," Swope said. "It has taken a lot of hard use and abuse over the years. A lot of the concrete and stuff in the training building was beginning to deteriorate and needed some repairs."

There was money in the budget earmarked for maintenance that Swope was able to take out and redirect elsewhere because of the ongoing renovation.

It should save the city somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 a year over the next few years, he said.

"I didn't eliminate it but I cut it in half," Swope said. "I felt like the new improvements that are going on would mean the need for less maintenance, at least for the next couple of years."

Etheridge said he believes this is the largest renovation the facility has had since being built. The last facelift it got was about a decade ago, he said.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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