Photo credit: Greg Kirby
As part of its incentive to provide premiere fire service training to its firefighters and its regional partners, the Seminole County Fire Department established a Regional Fire Training Center in the fall of 2007.
National Fire Academy and Fire College Department of Insurance Continuing Education (FCDICE) courses are offered on a regular basis to provide continuing education to area firefighters. Classes such as Fire Officer 1 and Public Information Officer are offered where firefighters can achieve college credits through an agreement with Seminole State College of Florida.
The Seminole County Fire Training Center originally began in 2003 with the purchase of an abandoned manufacturing warehouse that sat upon a 20 acre parcel of land, located in Longwood, Fl. This acquisition would end up being the ideal place to conduct preeminent fire training.
Within 2 years, of the initial land purchase, a logistics warehouse was established to support the Seminole County Fire Department’s 18 fire stations. At the same time, resources for the Urban Search and Rescue “Task Force 4” were housed here as well.
With a staff of six training officers, the Seminole County Training Center offers coursework and hands-on training based on an all-hazards approach. Classes cover a range of topics such as: residential and commercial fire tactics, wildland firefighting, search and rescue, live fire training, EMS continuing education, health and wellness, leadership, and many other specialized classes such as the Flame-Sim interactive fire training simulator. In fact over 736 classes have been offered since opening in 2007. Additionally, out of 736 classes, 168 have been opened to other area fire departments.
The expansive 20 acre lot allows for a multitude of training. A local junk yard donates cars for firefighters to practice their auto extrication skills. Multiple hazardous materials storage containers are on site for Haz-Mat teams to practice their skills. Additionally, a man-made pond is utilized for drafting operations. However, the crowning jewel to the Seminole County Fire Department Training Center is the 5 ½ story training tower and the pressurized rail tank car trainer.
Erected in 2009, the training tower allows firefighters to hone their skills in a number of ways. The interior of the 5 ½ story structure can be changed and converted to simulate “real world” search and rescue scenarios. A commercial grade “smoke” machine is used to charge the training center to simulate finding the seat of a fire for extinguishment.
Tower/ladder truck crews can practice vertical roof ventilation and the large concrete lot the training tower sits on allows for fire apparatus to practice vehicle placement and set up. Additionally, the training tower will eventually be converted into a class “A” burn building where firefighters from around the region can gain real world firefighting experience.
Through the Orlando Urban Security Initiative, grant funding was approved for the purchase of pressurized rail tank car that can be outfitted with chlorine, LP, and a general service dome that can be utilized to simulate liquid and vapor releases. Instructors have the ability to change the type and location of simulated hazardous materials releases. To further enhance railway training, another pressurized tank car will be added in order to better simulate real world emergencies. Furthermore, a passenger rail car will also be added to simulate a passenger train car derailment.
In addition to all the outstanding training opportunities for area firefighters, the Seminole County Fire Training Center has gained regional attention for offering the Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT). As a growing trend in the fire service, the CPAT is a standardized physical ability test designed to identify individuals who have the physical attributes to perform the job of a firefighter. Since firefighters are in essence “occupational” athletes, the CPAT is a way to test a candidate’s aerobic and anaerobic capacity, muscular endurance, strength and flexibility.
On the horizon, the Seminole County Fire Department Regional Training Center looks forward to providing additional training opportunities. A regional Commercial Drivers License (CDL), Emergency Vehicle Operators Course (EVOC) and trench rescue classes will be offered to area fire departments. Additionally, an EMS Simulation Lab is being created to enhance firefighters EMS skills. An endless variety of EMS scenarios can be set up in order to provide a quality learning environment. As an added feature, the Sim-Lab will be outfitted with cameras allowing other firefighters to view the training sessions via a computer.
In conclusion, the Seminole County Fire Department Regional Training Center offers a wide range of training opportunities. Purchased in 2003, the 20-acre Regional Training Center is the ideal place to conduct fire attack training, EMS continuing educational classes, leadership course, FCDICE approved courses and other specialized classes. Training props such as the 5 ½ story training tower and the pressurized rail car help enhance area firefighters response capabilities. Future expansion includes regional CDL and EVOC classes, as well as, an EMS Simulation Lab.