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Training tower hits snag

The fire district hoped to have a new four-story training tower built by July, but an unexpected problem with soil at the site has delayed plans.

Now, hopes are to have construction start on the tower by August or September, Mid-Columbia Fire & Rescue Chief Bob Palmer told the fire board Monday.

A study found a type of soil that required driving piling, an unexpected cost. Now the fire district is awaiting an updated design of the tower foundation, which is due in three weeks.

Once that’s in hand, financing quotes for the project can be obtained.

The loamy, sandy soil found at the site of the tower is conducive to liquefaction under earthquake conditions, Palmer said.

He asked the builder why the fire station itself was allowed to be built, without piling, on the same site and the builder said he didn’t know.

Palmer said he’d been told by the builder that the added requirement of driving pile should not adversely affect the overall estimated $580,000 cost of the project.

He’s taking a wait and see approach, he said. He said the tower had to be redesigned given the new costs of the foundation.

He believes piling would be driven down 15 to 20 feet into bedrock.

The fire district is paying for the tower with

payments from the Google enterprise zone.

Google has built two complexes and will break ground on a third this week. In each instance, Google has agreed to make payments to local government in lieu of paying property taxes.

The fire district’s share from the second Google complex is $56,000 per year for 15 years. It will use most of that revenue stream to pay for the training tower.

The tower will have various training elements in it for practice scenarios.

It will have two “live burn rooms,” one on the first floor, and one on the second floor.

The tower gets smaller with each additional floor. The main floor measures 14 by 22 feet and the second one is 12 by 12 feet, with an area to practice search and rescue techniques.

The live burn areas will be places where firefighters can practice extinguishing the typical flammable materials found in a home, such as paper products, fabrics and wood.

One floor will have a sprinkler system, and the height of the tower will allow firefighters to practice hose evolution, or the moving of hoses up and down stairs and within rooms.

The tower will also have varying pitches of roofs for practice purposes and also has windows and doorways to mimic residences.

It will include a residential type section and a garage area.

“It allows them to train in a simulated, realistic environment is the primary reason for it. We don’t always have fires all the time so you have to train in simulated situations,” Palmer said.

Burn-to-learn sessions, where the fire department burns an abandoned house to practice putting out fires, are becoming less common.

It had to cancel its last scheduled burn to learn over concerns about the materials that might be burned, such as asbestos and lead paint, and what types of fumes might be put off from a fire.

The tower itself will be prefabricated off-site and then hauled on-site and then assembled “like an erector set.” The on-site assembly will take eight weeks.

The entire building is metal, other than the concrete foundation.

“The actual burn room is stainless steel,” Palmer said.

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