SYLVANIA - Propelling off a four-story building and withstanding temperatures of 1,800 degrees are just two exercises Sylvania's new fire training facility has to offer.
The state-of-the-art center, the only one of its kind in the region, also is available to serve the training needs of fire departments in surrounding counties.
The Sylvania Fire Department celebrated with an open house and touring for the public last week, after an 11-month construction job that the firefighters tackled themselves.
With help and support from David Burke, plant manager of what is now Koyo, a grant was written and submitted to the Timken Foundation, said Gary Weaver, public safety chief of Sylvania, which then resulted in $166,000 in funding.
The City of Sylvania funded the rest, Weaver said, including additions like a cement slab around the building and city water hook up.
The cost of erecting the building itself was right at $200,000, Weaver said, with the final project cost about $500,000.
The cost of labor was cut substantially, however, due to the tremendous effort of many paid and volunteer members of the fire department, he said, who constructed the four-story building themselves.
"What I've been most impressed with," Weaver said, "is the craftsmanship of the guys."
Since their ground-breaking on April 1 last year, Weaver said the men would work some nights as late as 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning.
"That's not part of their job description," he said.
The hard work has yielded an all-encompassing facility in their own backyard, where there's nothing as far as training goes, that can't be done, Weaver said.
The four-story building, along with additional training obstacles on the surrounding grounds, can accommodate training in confined space, pressurized container, vehicle fires, flammable liquids, dumpster fires, forceable entry, live fire training, and high angle rescue and propelling.
"We used to have to go to county for live burns," said firefighter Kurt Stossmeister. "Now we can do everything here."
The new facility is located just a short distance from the Sylvania Fire Department, behind the Cail Community Center on Millen Road.
During a tour of the building, Capt. Chris Lewis and Operations Chief John Rosier described key elements of the facility.
While one side of the building simulates commercial buildings, the other is set up to simulate residential. With a smoke barrel that produces real smoke and can smoke up all the way to the fourth floor, trainees can be placed in limited visibility situations without the heat, said Lewis, which allows new firefighters to progress a little at a time.
Features, from the adjustable tension on the ground door to the ventilation system in the simulated attic room, are all used to create the most realistic environment possible, Lewis said. They even pipe in natural gas to simulate stove or kitchen fires, one of the most common calls they receive.
The second floor also features sliding maze walls, so that even after trainees have experienced a floor with limited visibility, they can never memorize the floor plan.
While some additions to the outside training area are still necessary prior to completion, Weaver said he wants to have a full-fledged training facility that will be available to surrounding counties, instead of their having to drive three hours to the nearest one in Forsyth, north of Macon.
Commander Tim Graham of the Statesboro Fire Department is one who is looking forward to taking them up on their offer to utilize the facility for specialty training.
"They did a phenomenal job," said Graham, "and it's always good to know we have neighboring fire departments willing to share their resources."