By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
RICHLANDS, Va. —
A $500,000 regional training facility for firefighters is nearing completion in Tazewell County.
The new training center in Richlands was funded through a $430,000 grant the town received from the Virginia Department of Fire Programs as well as additional funding from the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors. The facility known as a “burn building” creates a controlled environment for firefighters to train in smoke or intense heat with wall censors to create different training scenarios.
Town Manager Tim Taylor said the burn building itself is ready for use but there are still some minor projects that must be completed before the facility is opened.
“We had a substantial completion inspection Thursday and so the project is not final, but it is usable for its intent at this point,” Taylor said. “There is still a lot of work to do to get it to a point where we can use it and where we can allow others to use it. What remains is getting the grounds ready and the road ready, things like that.”
Taylor said the building will employ some of the latest firefighter training technology and is on par with other training facilities throughout the state. The total cost of the facility is estimated at $542,000
“The building is in compliance with state standards for these type of facilities to remain uniform,” he said. “It is the type of building that anyone can use. Obviously, training is a major issue when it comes to firefighting. Often times, inadequate training can not only jeopardize property but lives. This is a modern training facility that provides a controlled atmosphere for firefighters to use. It is modern and realistic, not to mention reusable. This is a major investment, more than a $500,000 project. It provides an atmosphere for anyone to be trained.”
Before the facility’s construction, the closet burn building to Tazewell County was located in Wise, Va. For departments in Tazewell County, Taylor said the new burn building will provide them easier and cheaper access to necessary training.
“Locally, this cuts down on our travel,” Taylor said. “A lot of firefighters have other full-time jobs and don’t want to be away from their families. This is a facility in close proximity for our firefighters to use more easily. Additionally, the cost of going to training and limited resources can impact what training is available to some departments. They can stay locally and get the type of fire training they need. People need to know what we have since it elevates the departments in our area to get them better trained. We have a lot of dedicated firefighters in this area who are willing to travel great distances to get this training, and this allows them to do so locally.”
Departments from surrounding counties will also be able to use the facility, Taylor said.
“This will greatly serve a four-county area for sure and even beyond if they would like to use it,” he said. “Tazewell County will definitely benefit and since we border Buchanan and Russell counties they can use it. Dickenson can use it as well. If there isn’t one they are using in Bland County we could extend it to them as well. Of course, all of our county and town departments can use it. It can be used by anyone. We can even do state training there.”
Taylor said the local fire department and city are planning a grand opening event so local residents can tour the new burn building and learn more about fire safety.
“We are hoping to have a ceremony when it opens inviting out the funding agencies and grant agencies,” he said. “We will also have an open house for the community. We have a safety day program every two years put on by our police, fire and public safety departments. We are thinking about including the burn building as part of the festivities. We have excellent fire and rescue departments and we want them to have the best facilities possible.”
— Contact Kate Coil at email@example.com