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story.lead_photo.caption Keith Bryant/The Weekly Vista Firefighters prepare to handle a simulated fire scenario at Fire Station 1. Scott Cranford, the division chief responsible for training, said the department is very limited in training because using commercial properties can be disruptive and damage the pavement, acquiring a structure to burn can prove dangerous and firefighters can't perform all their skills at the fire station without risking damage to the building. The proposed training facility will fix that, he said.

The Bella Vista Fire Department has taken its first step toward establishing a training facility.

The City Council on Monday, Aug. 27, unanimously approved a resolution to enter into a lease agreement with the Bella Vista Property Owners Association for a piece of property to be used to construct a training facility.

Scott Cranford, division chief responsible for training, said the roughly 10-acre parcel at the intersection of Chelsea Road and Tudor Drive gives the Fire Department enough land for a live fire training facility, driving course for heavy fire apparatus, a classroom building and restrooms for personnel.

These facilities will be built for long-term use, he said, and he's bringing his knowledge from prior work on training facilities with the Joplin Fire Department as well as research from other training facilities in the area.

"We've done our homework in researching 12 regional training facilities," he said, four of which had driving pads.

The cost to build these structures will be discussed at a budget information session scheduled for Nov. 24 at 5 p.m. at the Bella Vista court facility, where officials will discuss this project and others.

Cranford, who was hired earlier this year to oversee training in the department, said this facility will open up a lot of opportunities for firefighters who currently do not have access to a similar facility nearby.

"We have no place now to perform drills with large apparatus," he said.

The closest place for live fire training is an hour and a half away, he explained, which is too far to take the city's fire trucks because of wear and tear and because it could leave the city high and dry in an emergency.

Practicing in parking lots that aren't built for massive fire trucks can damage the surfaces, he explained, and using a business parking lot can be disruptive, and firefighters have to worry about traffic. Practicing on roads is just as disruptive and can prove dangerous.

Practicing putting out a fire, he said, currently means training with an acquired structure, which can be dangerous. There's also nowhere to flow water, he said, or hook ladders without damaging anything.

"These skills are extremely vital," he said.

The new burn tower, he said, will be a large cement structure, which firefighters don't have to worry about tearing up with the hooks on their ladders or otherwise, and will serve as a completely controlled environment for burns.

The first floor will feature a space that firefighters can use to start and put out wood fires, he said, while the second will include several Class B props, including a bed and a rollover simulator, which can simulate different kinds of hazards firefighters might encounter but in a wholly controlled environment.

There will be stairs to climb on the side, he said and anchor points on the roof for rappelling, as well as a ventilation roof that firefighters can practice cutting.

"Anything you could imagine training on you could do with this facility," he said.

The city's Insurance Service Organization, or ISO, rating decreased in 2017. The rating is a number on a one-through-10 scale based on a city's fire protection service which is sometimes used to determine homeowners' and commercial insurance rates. Bella Vista is now rated 4/4x, down from a six.

While the addition of Fire Station 4 near the Highlands gate area in 2016 helped bring the score down, a lack of a training facility negatively impacted the rating.

Cranford said this facility will allow the department to earn full credit with the ISO in terms of training, which could help the city reach an ISO rating of three.

The lease with the POA is for 25 years, 4 months, and is renewable. Construction could start as early as 2019.

Community on 09/05/2018

Print Headline: Bella Vista Fire Department to construct fire training center

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