Fire academy opens new training complex here
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Firefighters demonstrate the use of hand-line nozzles to keep vapor in front of them in a propane tank fire during a simulation conducted at the Northeast Texas Regional Academy Fire Training Complex.
Staff Photo Faith Huffman

Oct. 27, 2005 -- A host of local dignitaries and members of the fire fighting community converged Wednesday evening on County Road 3502 for the grand opening of Northeast Texas Regional Academy-Fire/EMS's "innovative" new fire training complex.

Commissioners Beth Wisenbaker and Don Patterson, Texas Forest Service representative David Abernathy, and academy advisors and instructors were on hand as Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap performed ribbon cutting duties on the yellow fire scene tape at the entrance to the four-story high rise.

The field will be used to train recruits enrolled at the academy, as well as provide valuable skills practice and continuing education for certified/trained firemen and volunteer firefighters. The training is an integral part of fire fighting to prepare firemen for any situation that may arise.

Fire crews with equipment from Hopkins County, Commerce and Sulphur Springs Fire departments, and Cumby and Pickton-Pine Forest Volunteer Fire departments conducted three simulated demonstrations.

The first demonstration was a simulated one-alarm house fire in a one-story cottage designed to simulate various types of fire attacks in residential structures, according to NeTRA Coordinator Carl Nix. The simulation gives firefighters the experience of locating a blaze as well as the chance to hone search and rescue techniques and shape the incident command system, according to NeTRA Lead Instructor/Assistant Coordinator Gary Rushing.

The second demonstration, extinguishing a propane tank fire, was designed to present firemen with a wall of fire. They had to use fire streams and different patterns to extinguish it. It also teaches them to cool down liquid in a chemical tank to keep the heat and vapor in the tank from thinning the metal wall, which could cause it to explode.

The third demonstration utilized the four-story drill tower to simulate search and rescue techniques in a high rise structure. The tower can also be used to teach firemen floor-to-floor work in a high rise, use of stairwells, and tapping into a standpipe system. Actual burning is not conducted in the tower, but smoke and heat from an incinerator are used to help simulate the fire, with flares used to represent actual fire.

In addition to search and rescue, the tower can be used for ladder drills, rope drills for hoisting items from the ground, rope rescue, and can be utilized by truck companies to set up aerial devices and training.

The training facility also has a roof simulator which allows recruits and firemen to practice cutting holes in roofs for ventilation purposes. A tank, and 40-foot box trailer are also used for hazardous materials training. A large pile of concrete rubble will be used for urban search and rescue training. In another area, recruits are trained on car fires and rescues, according to Rushing. 

Driver operator courses are also offered periodically for those seeking more advanced knowledge of pump operations, and some future classes will include fire investigation and fire inspection. 

The complex was designed primarily by Rushing, with Brinker Volunteer Fire Department Chief Herb Scott and Arbala Volunteer Fire Department Chief Autry Darden doing most of the construction, with assistance from NeTRA Classes 17D, 18D, 19D, 20D and 8N.

Rushing also noted that the project, which began in October 2004, would not have been possible without support from several entities, including the county judge and commissioners; Hopkins County Fire Department; the city of Sulphur Springs, Police Chief Jim Bayuk and Fire Chief Gerry Cleaver; First Baptist Church, which allowed the academy to utilize their property to conduct hose practices, search and rescue exercises, and other training; Hammond Homes, which moved the academy's storage trailer from Commerce to the drill field free of charge; We Stow of Paris, which gave considerable discounts on containers used to build the props; Texas Forest Service for their support; North Hopkins Water District for donating a water hydrant to be installed at the field; Tyler Products for the 1,000 gallon tank to use as a draft pit; Paris Fire Department for the donation of the propane tank and cutting area with tank; Sherwin Williams for a "cut rate price" on paint; Field House Sports, which handles NeTRA uniforms; and NeTRA's advisory board.

The advisory board includes financial adviseer James Kennon, Greenville Fire Chief Kenny Ward, AVFD Chief Autry Darden, Texas Forest Service fire adviser David Abernathy, Sulphur Springs Economic Development Corporation Executive Vice President Roger Feagley, medical advisor Dr. I.L. Balkcom IV and legal advisor County Attorney Dusty Rabe. 

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