Firefighting training center under construction in Forsyth

Firefighters soon will see smoke and fire again at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth.

Construction is under way for a $1.6 million new fire training building that will replace the training center’s 22-year-old building that was condemned in 2009 because of safety concerns.

Firefighters use so-called “burn buildings” during their basic training and continuing education to practice putting out a fire in a safe, controlled environment, said Butch Beach, the training center’s deputy director of training.

Instructors ignite oak pallets and set hay ablaze to give firefighters something to put out, he said.

“The heat levels are realistic. The smoke is realistic,” Beach said.

Over the life of the current building, repeated use has caused cracks and other damage, said Patrice Kerner, the training center’s deputy director of operations.

“Cement isn’t meant to last that long with that heating and cooling,” she said.

Since the training building was condemned in 2009, the center has cut back on classes. Firefighters completing the center’s basic training travel to state-owned facilities that have been modified for their practice burns, Kerner said.

They also borrow area fire departments’ burn buildings, she said.

The new 5,000-square-foot building will stand three stories tall and be made of cinder block with a reinforced high temperature lining, Kerner said.

Fire Academy Director David Wall said the building will give trainers the tools to recreate residential, industrial, commercial and multi-family structure scenarios using interior and exterior hallways and stairways.

Aside from training with live fire, the building also will be used for technical rescue classes. Firefighters will be able to use ropes to climb down the outside of the building and into windows, he said.

The building also will include an attic, different configurations of interior sprinkler systems and multiple types of roof surfaces for training.

“It will be well-used,” Beach said.

Planning for the building began about four years ago when the training center requested funding from state bonds. But the economy went bust before bonds could be sold, Kerner said.

When the old building was condemned in 2009, the training center was placed higher on the priority list for bonds. Bonds were sold for the project in February 2009, she said.

Kerner said the new building is scheduled to be complete in July.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.