MILTON, Ga. — The Milton Fire Department will take delivery of a much anticipated training tool in January. The city has purchased a mobile training unit that will allow firefighters to stay within Milton for training and could provide added opportunities beyond the department.
The city agreed to purchase the training unit in September at a cost of $165,000, a lower price tag than a stationary unit proposed last year.
But beyond cost-savings, Fire Chief Robert Edgar said the facility will allow Milton fire and rescue invaluable training.
“We don’t fight fires often, but when we do we need to be ready,” he said. “This mobile unit allows us that.”
The mobile unit is created from shipping containers and has been modified to provide multiple real-life fire situations. The facility has a burn room where either hay or wood pallets can be burned.
“We can create a hot, smoky environment that is similar to what we would face in a house fire,” Edgar said.
And like actual homes that differ in their layouts, the unit’s walls can be adjusted so that firefighters face a new design each time they train. Currently, one of the practices used by the department is to have firefighters wear a blacked-out mask and find their way through the city’s fire stations. But Edgar said many have learned the layout, and it doesn’t present a real-life situation of entering an unknown home during a search and rescue.
The unit is also expandable and can rise to 45 feet. This will allow firefighters to train on ladder drills and their bailout systems.
Structures for ceiling and wall breaches, ventilation training and the ability to fight fires on multiple floors will also allow firefighters to hone their skills.
The unit will be housed behind Fire Station 43 on Hickory Flat Road and will end the department’s need to train its firefighters in other cities. The Milton staff has trained in Cherokee and Forsyth counties and other municipalities because the department did not have a facility of its own.
That has presented issues for the city firefighters to achieve their required hours of training, Edgar said. Each firefighter is required to have 240 hours of training each year, including 18 hours of facility training.
Though it will be housed in the city, the unit will sit on a trailer and can be transported. Edgar said the mobility will allow the unit to be incorporated in the city’s Citizens Emergency Response Team training.
In addition, Milton’s Fire Department has also been in discussion with Cambridge High School about a potential fire and EMT course at the school. Edgar said the unit could be transported to the school to allow students interested in those fields to receive training experience.
Many of the city’s more experienced firefighters are retiring and some of the younger staff has never experienced a structure fire outside of training. That is why the experience the training facility will offer is so crucial, Edgar said.
“You can only simulate a fire or hook up a hose so many times,” he said. “To have experience of a real fire, in a real environment, is invaluable practice.”