City breaks ground on new firefighter training facility

Columbus Division of Fire Chief Ned Pettus Jr. had to turn up the heat on city administrators to get a commitment for a new training facility.

But with a groundbreaking July 2, plans are one step closer to reaching fruition.

Messenger photo by John Matuszak
The dirt flies at the July 2 groundbreaking for the Columbus Division of Fire’s $8.6 million training facility on South Parsons Avenue. Participants include, center, Mayor Michael Coleman, and to his right, City Council members Michael Mentel, Priscilla Tyson and Hearcel Craig. The project is scheduled for completion in January, 2009.

At the ceremony held on the grounds of the current training center on South Parsons Avenue, Columbus Safety Director Mitchell Brown recalled how Pettus became fired up about the project.

It was December, 2004, when Pettus stood next to Police Chief James Jackson at the opening of a police training facility on Hague Avenue.

“How did you get this done?” Pettus asked Jackson.

“You have to go through the safety director,” Jackson replied.

“He’s been on me ever since,” Brown added.

Pettus said the center will be used not only to train new recruits, but to allow veteran firefighters to upgrade their skills in one location.

City Council has dedicated $8.6 million from the capital improvements budget to construct the four-building complex, including a 26,000 square-foot practical skills building with classrooms and six bays for indoor training. A two-story wing of the building will allow for training on ladder rescues and rappelling, as well as a sprinkler practice area.

The project will also include a training tower for high-rise rescues and a burn building.

Mayor Michael Coleman joked that the burn building is the most important to him, “because now firefighters will no longer have to practice on my home,” referring to two fires at his residence.

On a more serious note, Coleman explained that the facility will “make our neighborhoods safer, and it will make our people safer.”

Columbus has one of the few fire departments in the nation that is internationally accredited, according to the mayor.

Councilman Andrew Ginther, chairman of the safety committee, commented that the deaths of nine firefighters in Charleston, S.C., underscore the critical need for up-to-date training facilities.

It will also be an environmentally friendly “green building” using recycled and re-used materials in its construction, Coleman noted.

Council President Michael Mentel said that the expenditure is part of the city’s commitment to enhance safety in the community, including $4.5 million earmarked for a new station on the far eastside and $300,000 being spent for thermal imaging cameras.

The construction of the training center is scheduled for completion by January, 2009.

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