New $1 Million Training Facility Ground Breaking

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Crews started ground breaking on a new $1 million training facility Monday (July 14) for the Fort Smith Fire Department.

Plans for the new facility have been in the works for quite some time, according to Fire Chief Mike Richards.

The new facility will be built out near the city landfill. It will be a four-story building, equipped with a two-story burn room and have a pavilion including outdoor classrooms, Richards said.

The new facility would come at a price tag of more than $1 million, which would come from Act 338, according to Richards. What that means is most of the construction costs would be paid for by the state’s fund for fire departments. Additional funding would come from a sales tax that voters approved back in 2012, Richards said.

The chief said the new facility is greatly needed because crews currently don’t have anywhere to practice drills or train in Fort Smith. Instead, Richards said crews have to find a vacant street and pretend one of the homes is on fire.

Chief Richards said the new tower will give his crews a place to better learn how to respond to a variety of different situations which will help them save lives.

"This will provide us training in a controlled environment, realistic environment where it will be safer," said Richards. " We can get many more hours of training in, be much more efficient and will provide for more public safety and firefighter safety."

Crews said they expect to wrap up construction by the end of this year or beginning of next year.

The training facility was approved by the Board of Directors back in June.