Fire training center could be built in city

4.5 acres could be purchased on Industrial Avenue in Craig

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The Craig Rural Fire Protection District may be a step closer to completing a process that has gone on for seven years. The next step is getting approval from residents.

There will be a public hearing May 8 on whether the Craig City Council should approve a conditional use permit for the Craig Rural Fire Protection District so it can build a fire/rescue training center.

The fire district has arranged to purchase four-and-a-half acres on the 1100 block of Industrial Avenue, behind Kmart. The land is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"We've been working this land search for seven years," said Tom Cotton, president of the Craig/Rural Fire Protection District Board of Directors. "We have put a deposit on this land, and will pay the full price of $79,900 if the conditional use permit is approved by the City Council."

The site was not the first choice for the Fire District, but other possibilities have fallen through.

"The permit process has been unsuccessful once before," said Chris Nichols, Deputy Chief of the Craig/Rural Fire Protection District. "We were unable to purchase land near the sewage plant, because of the prohibitive cost of bringing the land into compliance with Craig's subdivision regulations that covered that area."

If the Council grants the conditional use permit, the Fire District will begin the lengthy process of designing and funding the proposed facility.

"We've selected a model of a facility from Fire Facilities, Inc., a company that specializes in facilities like these," Nichols said. "What we envision is a training center that includes a 40-foot tower for rope rescues, repelling and window rescues, which can also be used by city and county SWAT team training, and an adjacent burn building with two rooms."

According to Nichols, the first room would have a natural gas, computer-controlled burn system that could simulate different stages of fires, and a second room for Class A combustible fires, such as wood.

The cost of the materials for the complex is $190,000, Nichols said, but that doesn't include site preparation, construction of the foundation or the cost of building the facility.

"It's a pretty intricate process that we're organizing," Cotton said. "We'd like to have everything in one locale, and if we need to, we build it up to our needs in a phase-in process.

The site will eventually include classrooms for education and training, and the rails near the proposed site will allow for hazardous materials training.

"We look for the facility to allow for extrication training, enclosed space rescue training, auto extraction training; from the base facility there are different modules we can add," Cotton said.

The Fire District has applied for a $450,000 Federal Emer-gency Management Agency (FEMA) grant to help fund the center.

"One possibility is buying the building and a two-acre lot next to the four-and-a-half acres. That would allow us to build an additional bay for trucks, some classrooms, and maybe a training site.

"With that option we would need less modules," he said. "That building and lot could phase into the process very well. A lease/purchase is possible, and an appraisal is ongoing."

Nichols stressed the importance of having a comprehensive facility for training the Craig Fire/Rescue unit.

"Fire departments, even volunteer departments, are held to the same standards as professional, full-time crews. Training is necessary for us to safely and effectively take on the roles we're assigned, the Haz-Mat duties being an example of that," he said. "Training is a serious business for fire departments now."

Terry Looper, administrative office manager for the city of Craig, expects the conditional use permit will be approved.

"Dave Costa recommended to the Planning and Zoning Committee that the conditional use permit be approved, since Dave interpreted the facility as a technical school, which is compatible with the lot's zoning," Looper said. "Planning and Zoning agreed, and they then made a likewise recommendation to the City Council."

There has been no opposition registered with the city.

"Unless some residents voice disfavor at the City Council meeting on May 8, it looks favorable that the permit will pass," Looper said.

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