South Beloit set to start building fire training site

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Austin Montgomery/Beloit Daily News South Beloit Police Chief Mike Davenport explains what the future training tower and surrounding area will look like once the department starts construction on its training campus behind its headquarters on Gardner Street.

SOUTH BELOIT - Like a Lego project, except weighing in each at over 8,000 pounds mixed with fire.

Those are the massive shipping containers the South Beloit Fire Department will use to piece together its future training grounds for fire staff as part of a training campus behind its headquarters on Gardner Street.

The effort's been on the horizon for the department for years, with a need to centralize its training capabilities due to costs of sending fire staff to regional departments, according to Chief Mike Davenport.

"We will be able to train on site, and that's the biggest benefit to us," Davenport said. "Cost-wise it's a benefit to us and keeps our staff in town."

Construction is expected in the coming months as the department waits on its building permit from Winnebago County. The land for the training site was recently subdivided, and Cpt. Gary Brown said it could take a matter of months to build the fabricated structure. Command staff will now work on official design of the structure that will include a tower as the shipping containers are built.

Funds for the $40,000 project will come from private donations and fundraising, along with funds from the city's 2 percent out-of-state business insurance tax that goes directly to the fire department when businesses within city limits have out-of-state insurance plans, Davenport said. He added the training structure won't be impacted by the flood plain due to a paved foundation that's already built to hold the training tower.

South Beloit's training facility will be similar to the one used by the Cherryvale Fire Department that uses live fire via scrap wood compared to more costly units that are propane-driven, like Harlem-Roscoe's, Davenport said.

As part of the facility, fire staff will be able to train on various fire suppression tactics; fire inspection; fire prevention; technical special operations rescues; high ropes rescues; confined space rescues and structure collapse rescues, among others.

Once open, firefighters will face as close to real life simulations as possible, meaning they'll be exposed to temperatures upwards of 400 degrees and forced to fight fires in pitch black environments.

"This gets us into being able to offer other departments our training facilities," Davenport said.

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