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Iowa FD is eager to begin live burns in new training tower

“We’re only limited by the imagination of the firefighters and training officers of the future” Sioux City Fire Rescue Captain Richard Andersen said



By Jared McNett
Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Long overdue.

That’s how Sioux City Fire Rescue Captain Richard Andersen characterized a new training tower his department unveiled Friday morning during an event at the facilities at 1701 Terminal Drive. The four-story, $560,000 structure features multiple burn rooms, movable walls for search and rescue missions, a tower with standpipe connections to practice high-rise fires, sprinkler systems and more.

“I hope this facility would become available to volunteer departments in the area for their use and hopefully firefighting not just in Sioux City. One of the things my father always told me is to try and leave something better than when I found it. Chief, I think I did.”

Andersen and Sioux City Fire Rescue’s Marc Smith said the idea of such a tower was the culmination of about three-and-half years worth of work that actually started under Andersen’s predecessor, Frank Fulton. Other officers offered suggestions about what such a facility should feature and Andersen and Smith even toured fire training sites in Clive, Iowa and Spencer, Iowa to get inspiration for their project.

To make their ideas a reality, Andersen and Smith worked with FEH Design, L&L Builders Co. and American Fire Training Systems.

“And (we) now have a training facility behind us that has been long overdue. The multipurpose training facility behind us not only allows Sioux City Fire Rescue but also Sioux City PD or SWAT Teams to do work and training inside it.”

Andersen then suggested Western Iowa Tech Community College and the Sioux City Community School District’s Career Academy could utilize the space for fire science programs and other learning opportunities.

Prior to the completion of the tower, Andersen said Sioux City Fire Rescue had only one burn room and a single search and rescue cell. The new structure boasts three burn rooms and the ability to craft all kinds of search and rescue cells.

“We’re only limited by the imagination of the firefighters and training officers of the future,” Andersen said.

The burn rooms inside the tower have heat sensors and temperatures of up to 800 F are possible on a ceiling.

On the first floor, there are bales of hay to burn for combustibles and old recliners and a bulky, metal stove to get acclimated to residential fire possibilities. To make the simulations feel even more real, Smith said “We have a big, theatrical smoke machine that can fill this up pretty quick.”

Further up the tower, there are tighter corridors to navigate. The upper deck of the area has a hatch for firefighters to practice with and even a space meant to recreate the feeling of historic building along Fourth Street in Sioux City. In another corner of the deck, is a slanted roof that allows officers to practice scaling. With so many scenarios, Smith said the department will more than get its money worth.

At the beginning of the ceremony, Sioux City Mayor Pro Tem Dan Moore told attendees that equipment such as the tower demonstrates the city’s commitment to helping the fire department in its training mission. He said officers total about 42,000 hours of training a year.

“Dangerous and time sensitive work,” Moore said. “This new training tower provides the means to train safely.”

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