EXETER –Nine years ago, voters approved a $55 million public safety bond that included $6.4 million to build a new Rhode Island State Fire Academy. The site was to be located on the old Ladd School property in Exeter and now, almost a year after the ground breaking ceremony, phase one of the construction is moving on track and the Academy is slated to be completed in the spring.
The project was designed by Providence-based firm Robinson Green Beretta and Under Iron Construction of Warwick, is overseeing the site work.
Phase one includes construction of a live burn building and storage facility. Phase two will be the construction of 15,000 square foot facility to house numerous classrooms and offices. However, funding for phase two is currently still in the proposed preliminary state budget and will have to be watched closely.
The Fire Academy currently uses some classroom space at the Cranston Street Armory building in Providence and a trailer for live burning training that travels around the state. The need for a new facility came because more classroom space was needed and a better and more stable facility was required for training.
“We needed a more practical hands-on place where firefighters could do the appropriate training,” Fire Academy Director Joe Castro said. “That burn trailer wasn’t cutting it. This new facility is going to give firefighters real life scenarios and will better prepare new recruits for what will come when they begin working.”
The 3,550 square-foot burn facility will allow firefighters to learn to repel off a building, forcible entry, ladder practices, ventilating roofs and search and rescue tactics.
There’s a make-shift elevator shaft and two live burn rooms, with props to simulate real-life scenarios, such as bedroom fire and kitchen fire scenarios. Firefighters will also be using a 10,000 square foot training pad for live outside fire training, extinguishing car fires and driver’s training.
Water that is used around the facility as part of the training practices will be reused as part of a self contained water system. Run-off water that’s used from training will be collected and deposited into an underground water storage tank.
In addition to the burn facility, construction is nearly complete on a storage facility that will house various apparatuses as well as other rooms to be used for possible training and educational uses.
Castro admits it’s been a struggle getting to this point and says that over the years, he thought this project would never come to fruition.
“This location was ideal, more for the fact that it was state-owned land,” he said. “If we had to purchase land ourselves, there would be no way we could have accomplished all we planned to. I’m pleased with how the construction is going and can’t wait for recruits to begin their training and education here as well as current firefighters to continue their learning.”