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City breaks ground for fire training facility

| Randy Dickson

Things will soon be a little safer in Crestview and the surrounding communities in North Okaloosa County, at least from a fire safety standpoint.

The City of Crestview broke ground on a fire training facility on Friday that will serve not only Crestview fire fighters, but those in Baker, Holt, Laurel Hill and other local communities.

It’s expected to be completed and ready for fire fighters to begin training in November of this year.

The facility is being financed with more than $600,000 from the state as well as more than $900,000 from the half-cent sales tax that was passed a few years ago.

The facility is a welcome addition for Fire Chief Anthony Holland.\

“This is extremely important to have this fire facility,” he said. “Back when I started, we had on the job training, meaning we had fires more predominant across the county.
“To be able to have a facility now where I can train my new guys when they are coming in. We can actually have live fires where they can see fire behaviors. We can show them different tactics and everything else to extinguish a fire quickly and save property and lives.”

Mayor JB Whitten of Crestview is excited that the city will be able help the neighboring communities that have smaller fire departments. He also pointed out that having a local training facility will allow the different departments to train together for the occasions there is a fire when multiple departments have to work together.

“It goes beyond the community of Crestview because our community spreads to all of the north part of the county,” Whitten said. “We are including not just Crestview, but all the volunteer fire departments that are going to be able to come here and use the facility.
“That puts everybody on the same page. When they respond to a fire, everybody has trained on the same level, and they know what they are doing, and they can work together as a team.”

Holland echoed the mayor’s statement about the facility being a place the Crestview Fire Department can train with fire fighters from other local fire districts. He also noted that all of his fire fighters can train together at the same time, which is not the case when needing to keep a station in Crestview to respond to a fire or another emergency.

The tower will have a single floor as well as a four-story facility to aid in training fires at taller structures. It also will be equipped with a stairwell that can ignite so the fire fighters will experience working up or down burning stairs.

Holland said the facility will be built for long term use.

“The tower can withstand burning, but we usually try to keep it under 800 degrees,” he said. “The building itself will last. After a certain amount of time, we will actually have to have it inspected to confirm everything is still in place.
“As long as that passes, we can continue to burn. We will have thermometers throughout the building that will help us keep it under the temperature range it has to stay at.

With a price tag of almost 1.5 million dollars, some might question why go to the expense. But if one life is saved because of training received at the facility, it will be money well spent Holland said.

The mayor summed things up best when he said, “It’s a wise investment and this is our half-cent sales tax in action.”