St. Petersburg Times

Training center opens for area firefighters
By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
Published March 30, 2005

PINELLAS PARK - Thirty years of wishes came true Tuesday when the county opened a state-of-the-art facility to train firefighters in realistic situations.

The Pinellas County Fire and Public Safety Training Facility, the first of its kind in Pinellas, is a joint venture of the county and St. Petersburg College. It will be used to train new firefighters as well as help veterans hone their skills.

In addition to firefighters from across the county, firefighters from around the state will be allowed to train at the $2.4-million facility. But Pinellas firefighters will have first dibs on the center.

"This is a good day, a real good day," said Safety Harbor fire Chief William J. Stout. Stout served for 20 years on a committee dedicated to creating the center for Pinellas. For 10 of those years, he was chairman.

Ken Cramer, executive director of the Pinellas County Fire Chiefs Association and the recently retired Pinellas Park chief, said he also served on the committee and urged the creation of a training center.

"This is a 30-year project for me," Cramer said.

The center, 5005 126th Ave. N, has a utilitarian look.

A seven-story concrete block building gives the county's technical rescue team a chance to practice rappelling, a rescue technique used when people are trapped in high places.

A two-story concrete block building has a control room so trainers can watch firefighters battle their way through smoke and real flames. The building gives firefighters a chance to practice many skills, from extinguishing flames to entering a burning building from various angles.

One of the best assets of the center is its location, Cramer said. Just off 49th Street N, it provides easy access to departments from all over the county.