Advocate editorial board opinion: Department needs facility for controlled situations

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Jan. 3, 2012 at 6:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 2, 2012 at 7:03 p.m.

Most residents of Victoria are aware of the increased frequency of house fires and other fires that have caused a lot of property damage in 2011 because of dry conditions and the drought.

What many don't know is that these catastrophic fires have been on-the-job training for many of our firefighters because we lack a facility for training them in a controlled simulated situation. This presents a dangerous situation for some of our firefighters.

Fire Chief Tanner Drake said 8,567 calls were made in 2010.

He said the final count is not in for 2011, but it will be in the neighborhood of 9,200 calls.

"Looks to me, right now, we're going to be up at least 600 calls," Drake said.

"Our biggest issue is we don't have anyway to duplicate a fire environment," he said.

With that said, we fully support a proposal to move $700,000 from the city's general fund to the fire department for the purpose of constructing a burn building, a training structure firefighters can learn how to safely rescue in a confined space - and in a controlled situation.

We think this training aid will help our fire department excel in its job. And others, such as volunteer fire departments, county fire department and SWAT teams, can use the proposed structure, too.

"Despite us not having a training burn building, these guys deliver a great job," Drake said. He emphasized the professionalism of the Victoria Fire Department.

However, he said when a new employee is hired, "we won't know how they are going to react in a structural fire. Some people just can't do it. We need to know that up front."

Currently, the department has a 1960s-era building that now can only be used for repelling and other rescue training, but not for fire in a building training.

Like Drake, we see the benefit of having a well-trained department.

We urge the city council, at the proposal's second and third reading, to approve moving $700,000 from the general fund for the fire department to help construct a training burn building.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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