On Aug. 20, at 4 p.m., Montgomery County is holding a groundbreaking ceremony for a new burn building located at 1636 Merrimac Road.
"The county has always valued the great work and sacrifices our fire and rescue personnel and volunteers do on a daily basis," said Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Chair Chris Tuck.
"This new, state-of-the-art burn building is an investment in our dedicated volunteers, allowing much-needed training not only for Montgomery County's firefighters but also firefighters throughout Southwest Virginia," said Tuck.
The new 1,730-square-foot burn building will be used for training firefighters in a controlled and supervised fire simulation or dense smoke environment. The unoccupied steel pre-fabricated structure will feature a concrete slab floor. The structure is referred to as a "prop" and contains eight rooms, three of which are dedicated burn rooms. The Virginia Department of Fire Programs has a set standard of maintenance schedules for the building that has a life expectancy of 25 years.
"This burn building has been in the works for several years and is an excellent example of collaboration between Montgomery County and the towns Blacksburg and Christiansburg. Having a training facility such as this in our county is invaluable. I'm very happy to see it come to fruition," said Vice Chair April DeMotts.
Firefighters throughout the county are expected to obtain their initial training within the first year of their membership. To accomplish this, departments have been required to send their members to Galax, Pulaski, or Roanoke. With the new structure, firefighters can be trained in Montgomery County, allowing them to remain ready to respond to calls in their home departments if needed.
In addition to new member training, firefighters from Montgomery County, Giles County, and the Radford Army Ammunition Plant Fire Department will be invited to use the structure for their annual training exercises.
"This burn building training prop has been a desire of the fire departments throughout Montgomery County for 10 years. We have submitted and received grant funding before; however, due to location and additional requirements were unable to construct the facility," said Neal Turner, Emergency Services Coordinator.
"Now with the help of numerous members of the Virginia Fire Programs and Fire Services Board, the Board of Supervisors, the towns of Blacksburg and Christiansburg, and the Blacksburg Fire Department Foundation this is a reality. The burn building is one of many components to the total build out of the regional training center a vision first begun by then Fire Chief Keith Bolte," said Turner.
With an anticipated completion date of Spring 2019, the training center will consist of classrooms, which will be purchased from surplus school sales; an enclosed MAZE building; a flash over simulator; a pad for vehicle extrication; a ladder training tower; and other aids that will create a state of the art facility with limited tax payer funding.
Funding for the burn building was primarily provided through a $480,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Fire Programs. Currently, 44 similar training structures exist throughout Virginia, with five more under construction.