New Victoria fire training center unveiled (Video)
Dec. 13, 2012 at 6:13 a.m.
Updated Dec. 14, 2012 at 6:14 a.m.
Brandon Strelczyk - and his more than 100 fellow Victoria firefighters - are stoked.
The department's new fire training facility is completed and ready to use.
"It's wonderful. We're ready to get this thing kicked off," said Strelczyk, a lieutenant and seven-year veteran of the department.
Fire Chief Taner Drake said he has seen the same reaction among other firefighters.
"They are so excited to be able to get out here and hone their skills and do some hands-on training," Drake said.
Drake, who became fire chief in 2011, said training is a core value of the fire service.
"You've got to be able to do training and prepare these guys for the unique challenges they are up against," he said. "We had no real place to duplicate the environment we put them in. They were literally getting on-the-job training."
The former fire training facility on West Constitution Street was built in the early 1960s and had been condemned because of structural damage.
The new 3,000-square-foot training facility at 1411 S.W. Ben Jordan St. was completed last month and sits on about three acres. It was unveiled Thursday with a demonstration and tour.
The facility includes a four-story tower with numerous training capabilities.
Drake said the ability to conduct training is essential, in part, because of the inexperience in the department. The average length of service is fewer than four years, he said.
"We have not had the ability to do live fire burning training in a number of years," he said. "This isn't something that happened overnight. This new facility has been discussed for many years."
Victoria Mayor Will Armstrong said the City Council was pleased to fund the new $700,000 facility that includes fencing, a paved parking area and electrical and water needs.
"It's a confirmation that this council is supportive of our first responders, be it the fire department or the police department," the mayor said. "We depend on our first responders, and we want them to have the tools they need."
Those tools include the future construction of a small, metal classroom on the training facility property, Drake said.
Police Chief J.J. Craig said he can envision his department's tactical squad using the facility and how it will be available for out-of-town fire departments to rent to conduct training.
Drake said he knows the fire training center will improve his department.
"It gives us that missing element," he said. "Part of our mission statement is that we will provide a highly trained staff. We've been doing that but haven't been able to do it fully.
"You can sit and watch a Powerpoint and read books, but if you can't put your hands on it and touch it and feel it and smell it and taste it, you're never going to grow as an organization."