COME ONE, COME ALL
Guess who has a 27-acre training facility that last year burned 180,000 gallons of fuel in live fire projects training over 2000 fire fighters from many municipal, volunteer and industrial departments throughout this country and from Canada, Saudi Arabia and South Africa? It’s neither a federal nor state agency. It’s the municipal fire department in Beaumont, Texas.
The Beaumont, Texas, fire training facility is located near the Neches River on land that was once part of the city’s sanitary landfill. The center’s location poses no nuisance to residential areas, and there is additional land available for expansion as needed. It is one of four facilities in the nation that have been recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to train industrial fire brigades. Many local industries take advantage of the facility to provide practical fire fighting experience for their personnel.
The training facility is maintained primarily by Beaumont Fire Department personnel. Maintenance equipment such as tractors, bulldozers, a winch truck and a welding truck are used to keep the field in top condition. Equipment for maintenance of the facility has been acquired through departmental budgeting, interdepartmental transfers and assistance from cooperating agencies.
With two large classrooms and over 17 fire projects, the multipurpose facility can be used by several different groups simultaneously. For example, Beaumont fire fighters may be using the six-story brick drill tower for high-rise fire fighting, while another group practices rescue techniques at the rescue building complex, and at another area industrial fire fighters are battling a huge blaze at the industrial complex.
One important aspect of the training center is that even though it is a municipal facility, its development and success are based on the combined efforts of local fire department and industrial personnel with the support of the Sabine Neches Chiefs Association, a mutual-aid organization, and Lamar University.
Lamar University is responsible for coordination of fire training programs at the training center. Several times each year basic recruit training schools are conducted. Recruits from area fire departments receive nine weeks of required training in order to be certified by the State of Texas as fire fighters. Further development of fire training programs has resulted in a twoyear fire technology degree program at Lamar University’s technical arts department.
The largest fire training event, Lamar University’s annual fire training school, is conducted for five days each spring with over 400 students and instructors participating. The 1983 school will be the 14th.
Specialized training has been developed for many local industries, including local utility companies. Most importantly, industries are given an opportunity to plan and design specific training programs most needed for their personnel.
Each year several one-day training schools are conducted for volunteer fire fighters from across the state. Basic fire fighting techniques and practical field projects offer valuable experience for the volunteers.
The training center is also a regular site for various demonstrations by fire and rescue equipment companies. The Red Adair Safety Division recently used the six-story training tower for demonstrations in rappelling. Roco Rescue Equipment Company uses the training facility for specialized high-rise rescue training The center provides an excellent location for manufacturers to demonstrate the latest in fire fighting and rescue equipment to area fire departments and industrial fire brigade personnel.
For the most part, all of the training projects have been designed and constructed by fire department and industrial personnel. The groups have teamed up to build one of the largest, most versatile training facilities in the country for all personnel types and subjects.
Continued on following page
A recently completed 900-square-foot smoke house project provides training in the use of self-contained breathing apparatus. The structure, which can be totally darkened, contains a changeable maze of doors, hallways and stairs. From this project, all fire fighters realize the importance of breathing apparatus and its proper maintenance, while gaining confidence in themselves and their equipment.
Several years ago, the Ansul Company selected Beaumont as the site for its southern fire extinguisher training school. Each spring hundreds of fire fighting personnel from across the nation attend the school. Since the school began, various training props have been constructed to provide specialized training in the use of fire extinguishers. Dry chemical is used to extinguish fires involving an overhead flange, pump seals, liquefied petroleum gas, paint lockers, electrical equipment and various size pit fires.
To provide even more specialized training for industrial fire brigades and municipal fire fire fighters who may be involved in major industrial emergencies, several projects have been added at the center. One simulates an industrial processing unit. The complex includes a series of petrochemical towers and catalytic cracking units. The project has a built-in sprinkler system in which fire fighting foam can be injected to extinguish the fire. Another project, which represents a crude oil storage tank, can be used to demonstrate subsurface foam and foam chamber applications, both of which are used extensively in industrial plants. This project also provides an excellent demonstration of the effectiveness of fire fighting foam with the use of regular hose hand lines.
Whether municipal, volunteer or industrial, all fire service personnel are eventually involved in operations. In order to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of rescue operations, a large heavy-duty rescue complex was constructed at the training center. Various surrounding and built-in props make the training realistic. The large structure has nearby utility poles, simulating high-voltage utility wires, a subterranean rescue pit to simulate pipeline or tunnel rescue, an anchor pit for winching practices, and a large metal tank with various openings to simulate rescue retrieval. One wall of the structure can be used for initial instruction in rappelling, prior to rappelling the six-story drill tower.
Beaumont’s training center has grown tremendously during recent years, and continued growth is anticipated. A favorable and supportive city administration allows revenues from training schools and field rental to be used for improvements and additions to the facility. Due to this support, new projects are currently on the drawing board for future development.