CAL FIRE Training Tower: A Decade in the Making

SUN PRAIRIE, WI – Fire Captain/Paramedic Jonah Winger possesses a specific skill that has served him well during his 27 years in the fire service: patience. In 2011 Winger started the process of requesting funding for a fire training structure for the Cameron Park (Calif.) Fire Department. Finally, after many starts and stops, a new Firefighter training structure is now in place.

“The process took us 10 years to complete, but it’s so worth it,” says Winger, with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the Amador-El Dorado Unit out of Cameron Park. “Fire Facilities was patient to continually update us on costs and information as we worked to get the tower approved over the years. They were easy to work with on choosing, designing, and receiving estimates for the structure we desired.

“Having the three-story Firefighter tower readily available has changed everything. Now we can train any day or time at a moment’s notice.”

Preparing for Wildfires

Training is critical for firefighters across the country, but especially in wildfire-prone California. So far in 2021, CAL FIRE has assisted with numerous wildfires, including the explosive 67-day Caldor fire that burned 221,835 acres. CAL FIRE teams are constantly on-call to control all aspects of wildfire suppression in the 1,786 square miles of El Dorado County.

“The Firefighter tower can be used for wildland urban interface structure triage and wildland drill scenarios,” says Winger. “Previously we had to train on local business buildings and at our fire stations. Now we are training daily on a tower more suited for our needs. While wildfires are extensive in our area, we use The Firefighter tower almost exclusively for structural firefighting and rescue training.”

Customized Training

CAL FIRE/Cameron Park Fire Department has already started including other stations in training for multi-company drills. The height and features of The Firefighter allow replication training for one- to three-story scenarios of multi-family residential units, single-family residences, commercial structures and health care facilities. The crews are also training on internal and external staircases, fire protections systems, flat commercial roofs, parapets, attics, FDC, sprinklers and standpipes.

To enhance training experiences, several custom elements were added to The Firefighter for CAL FIRE.

“We chose to add the rappelling anchors, FDC, sprinkler system, burn crib, and roof hatch so we could use the tower for a variety of training scenarios,” says Winger. “Every drill we place certain features ‘in or out’ of play to create a specific atmosphere and training objective.”       

Finding the Funds

So, how did CAL FIRE finally get its customized tower? According to Sherry Moranz, Assistant Chief, Central Division Operations for CAL FIRE, the need finally matched up with the funding availability.

“We presented the project concept, the plan, the cost, the justification, and the benefit to the Cameron Park Community Services District Board and to the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors,” says Moranz, who is located at the Amador-El Dorado Unit. “We used Development Impact Mitigation Fees to fund this training tower at an estimated cost of $450,000, and a final actual cost of $586,663. This training structure will benefit not just Cameron Park residents, but residents across all of El Dorado County.”

The Wait is Over

Now located adjacent to Fire Station 89 in Cameron Park, The Firefighter is ready for action. Winger believes more than 100 people will train on the structure regularly.

“The tower and burn room annex are ideal for both fire and EMS scenarios,” says Winger. “We anticipate the entire CAL FIRE Amador-El Dorado Unit will train here. This includes our personnel, fire interns, fire explores, fire academies, class and other El Dorado County fire cooperators.

“We waited a long 10 years to get this terrific training tower. Now we plan to use it constantly to hone our skills and prepare even harder to serve residents in our area.”

Fire Facilities, Inc. (FFI), an ISFSI corporate sponsor, manufactures a full line of steel fire training structures engineered to withstand real-life firefighting conditions. From mobile units to burn rooms to high-rise towers, FFI training models are available in a multitude of configurations. Our parent company, Trachte Building Systems, is one of the largest and oldest manufacturers of steel self-storage systems in the industry.  For more information, visit www.firefacilities.com or call 800-929-3726.

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