Drilling In The Desert

When the city of Tucson, AZ, decided to costruct a Regional Public Safety Academy, it consulted the most important people of all: the rank and file. Bryn Bailer examines the results and discusses how the $14.3 million cutting-edge facility meets the...


When the city of Tucson, AZ, signed up an architectural firm to design its $14.3 million Regional Public Safety Academy, it didn't just sit back and let civilians design the sorely needed, long-awaited training center. Planners talked with the suits, of course, but they were also smart enough to...


To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required

When the city of Tucson, AZ, signed up an architectural firm to design its $14.3 million Regional Public Safety Academy, it didn't just sit back and let civilians design the sorely needed, long-awaited training center. Planners talked with the suits, of course, but they were also smart enough to consult the uniformed: the rank-and-file members of the Tucson Fire Department.

8_98_drilling1.jpg
Photo by Frank Anthony Cara/Tucson Fire Department
Backdropped by the six-story drill tower and the Sonoran Desert, fire apparatus are parked outside the fire training area's apparatus building.

The result is a cutting-edge academy that combines sophisticated design with technological innovation without forgetting the real-life, gritty needs of working firefighters. With modern equipment and facilities for hazardous materials mitigation, technical rescue instruction, driver/operator and incident command training, wildfire suppression and a host of other firefighting needs, Tucson's new site is being touted as one of the most comprehensive, high-tech fire-training facilities in the nation.

And that's not all: As local officials describe it, this impressive facility is not only meant to be learned at, but learned from - when its training grounds are opened to fire departments based outside Arizona. Training costs for visiting departments had not been determined as of press time but they are expected to be "very, very nominal," according to Tucson Fire Chief Fred Shipman.

"I think it is our philosophy to be able to share our resources and our expertise," Shipman said of the decision to make the site available to others. "And this facility has it all."

Agencies struggling to "do more with fewer training dollars" might find the Tucson academy the one-stop training shop they've been looking for, said Battalion Chief Alan Moritz, the department's training chief.

"We're going to be offering some of the most challenging training, the most current training and most diverse training available in one place," he emphasized. "For firefighter training and anything associated with that, we want to provide it."

8_98_drilling2.jpg
Photo by Frank Anthony Cara/Tucson Fire Department
Firefighters practice vehicle extrication at the new Regional Public Safety Academy. In the background is undeveloped acreage that serves as a wildfire-suppression training area.

 


8_98_drilling3.jpg
Photo by Frank Anthony Cara/Tucson Fire Department
The Tucson Fire Department's newest firefighters attack a car fire during a skills demonstration following their academy graduation ceremony.

 

Tucson's training offer is not to be confused with another project slated for the desert site the federally sponsored Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Facility (ARFF), which will train outside departments for a fee. That project, which will begin offering specialized crash/fire rescue training in the year 2000, is expected to attract paying departments from across the Southwest.

For now, there is just the academy itself - a brand-new, 158-acre facility built to train firefighters and law-enforcement officers in the rapidly growing Southern Arizona region. Located about 14 miles southeast of downtown Tucson, the regional academy represents a much-needed shot in the training arm for area public-safety professionals. For the last 30 years, local firefighters had drilled at an aging, undersized academy located in one of the largest industrial areas of the city. Police officers trained at a similarly declining, overcrowded academy built atop an old landfill.

8_98_drilling4.jpg
Photo by Frank Anthony Cara/Tucson Fire Department
Firefighters advance a hoseline into "The Dragon," a natural-gas prop built by Southwest Gas Corp. for the academy. The prop puts out approximately 80 million BTUs of heat.

 


8_98_drilling5.jpg
Photo by Frank Anthony Cara/Tucson Fire Department
Covered with high-expansion foam, firefighters exit the academy's high-tech burn center. Built of high-carbon-content concrete to better withstand extreme temperatures, the burn room has movable interior maze walls that can be reconfigured for training purposes and doors that also permit it to be used for vehicle-storage fire training.

 

This content continues onto the next page...