WINCHESTER, Va. (WDVM) — Winchester and Frederick County firefighters are teaming up to establish a new joint training facility known as a burn building.
A burn building is a structure used by firefighters to train for real-life scenarios, such as search and rescue missions or training to move through a smoke-filled building. Winchester had such a facility up until 2013, when the city discontinued the use of the burn building, although city Fire Chief William Garrett says the building is still used in other training exercises.
“Due to the condition of the building, we’re unable to burn into it,” he said.
For the past six years, both the city and county firefighters have traveled to other locales, including Fairfax and Shenandoah to train at other departments burn buildings, which costs the departments time and money.
“Now that’s what we’ve done because it’s worked,” Garrett said. “However, now that we have our own burn building, we could save in many different regards to our system of service and the impact to our employees, more efficient training right here locally, and we do not have to partner with those other jurisdictions to utilize their burn building.”
The municipalities are set to begin construction on the new facility at the end of the month and are expected to finish in early 2020. Estimates for the cost reach nearly $1 million, although grant funding from the Virginia Department of Fire Programs will cover about $450,000 plus an additional $30,000 for engineering, says Deputy Chief J.D. Orndorff. The city will contribute an additional $270,000 while Frederick County pays around $257,000.
But the impact of having such a facility locally is immeasurable.
“We can actually go within minutes of any of our stations and within minutes of some of the Frederick County stations, and be at the training facility,” said Orndorff. “[To] be able to do hose line advancements, throw ladders against a building, do rappelling, do rope work, do interior search and rescue evolution. All of these things that are just going to make us sharper to be able to provide a better service to the citizens that we serve.”