Fire training tower nears completion

A new fire training tower in Calera will give local firefighters real experience battling blazes.

When classes start next year, the tower will allow firefighters to recreate many different kinds of fires.

“There are so many things we can simulate,” said Pelham Fire Chief Danny Endress. “The firefighters get to go in and fight the fires like they would in an actual structure.”

The five-story tower will be used to practice extinguishing fires in apartments, elevators, kitchens and more.

“You offer training to firefighters in an environment where they can learn,” said Endress. “I see it as a huge tool for us. I feel like it will reduce injuries.”

County Manager Alex Dudchock said the $1.3 million tower is the first of its kind in Alabama.

“There’s no other training complex comparable to ours,” Dudchock. “We’re excited about it.”

Shelby County and 23 other partners, including almost all of Shelby County’s fire departments, are footing the bill.

Endress said the tower will offer unprecedented training for the county’s volunteer departments, who often don’t have the same learning opportunities as their paid counterparts.

“The career firefighter does this every day,” Endress said. “But this is really a win-win for the volunteers. I feel like they will get a huge return out of this.”

Future plans call to add rail cars to the site. They would be used to practice train fires, derailments and spills.

Dudchock said the county plans to talk with the Alabama Fire College about how other departments, outside Shelby County, can benefit from the tower.

“First, we have to meet the training needs of our partners,” said Dudchock. “But we would like more formal discussions with the college to see what we can do with them in the future.”