October 13, 2004
By DEBBIE HALL
Bulletin Staff Writer
Local, regional and state officials gathered Tuesday to dedicate a state-of-the-art training facility at the Henry County Community Services Training Center complex.
Referred to as a "burn building," the facility will provide local and regional firefighters with access to the latest training opportunities in a controlled and safe environment.
"This is a very exciting day for this community," said Benny Summerlin, Henry County administrator. "This facility will provide the latest in training opportunities for paid and volunteer firefighters and those opportunities will save lives."
Construction of the 22-by-60 foot fireproof metal and steel building was completed in late August, following a groundbreaking in January.
The facility, which includes two floors in the main section and three floors in the stairwell or tower, was built in three sections and includes a total of 3,124 square feet. Each floor measures 12-by-22 feet and virtually all of that space is dedicated to training.
The one-story section is used for burning exercises. One of the burn rooms was lit after Tuesday's dedication to simulate a kitchen fire.
The fire is created with gas, which can be regulated to simulate different types of fires.
The tower is used for rappelling and to sharpen rope rescue skills, while the 21?2 story section of the building can be set up with various training props for other mock drills.
The facility, which cost $575,000, was funded by a $325,000 grant from the State Fire Services Board and a $250,000 grant from The Harvest Foundation, which invests and distributes proceeds from the sale of Memorial Hospital. DuPont donated the 16-acre site to the county.
"The community has pursued this project for many years. It was made possible by their generosity," Summerlin said.
Adam Thiel, executive director of the Virginia Department of Fire Programs, said that the structure is "so important to the core training that we do" because "fire every year still kills more people than died on Sept. 11" 2001.
While learning fire fighting techniques is important, "the most important thing we learn is team work," Thiel said.
Jerry Adams, president of the Martinsville-Henry County Firefighters Association, said the new facility "is a vision that has come into focus."
Officials have pursued the idea for a number of years. At one point in the 1980s, they had quotes for construction costs and possible sites, Adams said.
"This day has been a long time coming and what a journey it has been," said Clarence Monday, deputy chief of the Martinsville Fire Department. "Having a vision is easy. The journey is the difficult part, but today, the journey is over."
Rodney Howell, Henry County fire marshal, said training has changed during his 30-plus years fighting fires.
"The biggest change I've noticed is the emphasis is now on safety," he said, adding that the facility will give firefighters the opportunity to hone their skills while staying safe.
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