Colo. training facility simulates dangerous scenarios


By Michael Davidson
The Daily Camera

ERIE, Colo. — When firefighter Frank Canino first rushed into a burning basement, his training was limited to a few basic drills at the academy and quick words of advice from an experienced colleague.

Instructors couldn't create scenarios in which cadets could get the real feel of how to navigate a smoke-filled stairwell or a hallway with a burning ceiling. It was just too dangerous.

"We didn't do the extensive training we do here today," said Canino, a North Metro Fire Rescue District firefighter. "A lot of your knowledge base came from the guys you were working around."

With the opening last week of North Metro's new training center, those days are long gone.

The facility is part of a $19 million complex in Erie that boasts classrooms, a maintenance center and a new fire station.

North Metro Chief John O'Hayre said only two other facilities in the country rival its sophistication.

The training course features three buildings designed to simulate many of the conditions firefighters face in the real world. Scenarios range from flashovers, where an entire room can combust in a moment, to freeing people trapped in an elevator.

The center will help veterans as well. After demonstrating the tactics for fighting a basement fire, Canino estimated he'd only been in that situation seven or eight times during his 17-year career.

"None of the fire scenarios are routine, so it's hard to be an expert in any one type of scenario," Canino said.

Before the training center was built, North Metro fire fighters had to travel to other departments' facilities and work around their schedules. Neighboring departments already are asking if they can use North Metro's facility, O'Hayre said.

The center was paid for after voters passed a bond issue in May 2006.

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