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Proposed training facility touted as progress toward economic development

Christina M. Currie

Members of the Craig Rural Fire Protection District took one of the first steps in their plan to build a $1.5 million training facility.

The Craig City Council approved a conditional use permit for the facility to be located on seven acres north of the City of Craig wastewater treatment plant. There is no time limit on the permit.

The project will be multi-year, multi-phase, Deputy Fire Chief Chris Nichols said. Completion of each phase will depend on the money available to the department. Project funding has not been determined yet, but officials hope to receive grants to offset the cost.

The facility will include a 50-seat, auditorium-style classroom, a live fire simulation structure, equipment storage, a ventilation structure, a hazardous materials training site, a five-story tower for rapelling and high-rise rescue simulation and an automobile extrication training site.

“The long-term plan is this would be the hub of Northwest Colorado and surrounding areas and bring in some economic development,” Nichols said.

The facility will be state-of-the-art and computer controlled.

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It is the department’s hope that firefighters across the state will pay to use the facility for training. Talks are in progress to form a partnership with Colorado Northwestern Community College to offer a fire-safety curriculum using the facility. There has also been some interest from local law enforcement to use the facility for Special Response Team (SRT) training.

When built, the facility will be the only one in Colorado with state-accredited live-burn training. Firefighters are required to be recertified in live-burn training yearly.

“We as firefighters are volunteers, but we do have standards we need to adhere to by law,” Firefighter Buddy Grinstead said.

“This would be built to the standard we need to be accredited by the state,” Nichols said.

Craig firefighters travel to Durango to do their live-burn training at a cost of $1,200 to $1,600 each.

“If we get this thing built, we could get people to bring that money to us,” training officer Doug Slaight said.

The fire training facility would be especially helpful for the rookie training program. There are four rookies in the program this year. Last year, two of the department’s rookies were from Meeker.

“You don’t want firefighters on their first time out to be in an active fire,” Slaight said. “They need training.”

The department will begin construction with the live fire simulator at a projected cost of about $600,000.

There is no indication of when construction will begin. Nichols hopes to begin construction on a fence around the property this year.

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