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Fire training tower work underway

Foundation work has begun on a four-story fire training tower at Mid-Columbia Fire & Rescue. The tower should be finished in mid-October.

The tower will have a two-story residential structure off to the side of it. It will have two burn rooms, an interior stairwell, and it will have a smoke maze for search and rescue training, said MCF&R Chief Bob Palmer.

It will have the ability to ladder it, to repel off it, and it will have a platform for technical rescue training, he said.

It will be 60 feet long and 22 feet wide.

“You can spray water in it, on it, around it and over it, it’s extremely durable,” Palmer said.

“It’s designed to basically work around and simulate any kind of fire activities or technical rescue activities,” he said.

“We should be able to allow law enforcement to train in it as well for their tactical training. It’s a huge addition to the community as far as being able to at least simulate training we wouldn’t normally get otherwise. We can do live fire training, which is a big benefit.”

In the two burn rooms, fires can be started without affecting the building. The only materials that can be used to set fires are clean wood pallets, which Palmer said can often be sourced from local businesses.

“You go in and basically, you can have a fire, the guys can go in and put the fire out and understand fire behavior,” he said.

It’s been a challenging timeline for the project, which is probably a year behind schedule because of the discovery of sandy, loamy soil conditions that required the driving of piling.

“We weren’t expecting to have to dig pilings into it, but it’s going well now,” he said. The soil samples showed the ground was subject to liquefication under earthquake conditions, Palmer said.

And while the training tower required piling, the fire station itself did not. Palmer said he asked the engineer about the soil conditions under the fire station and the engineer said he didn’t know, and that it was probably engineered in a different fashion.

The tower will cost roughly $780,000, and will be financed with a 15-year loan. The loan will be repaid with enterprise zone funds that are paid by Google in lieu of property taxes.

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