County dedicates new fire training tower

Shelby County officials on Monday dedicated a $1.3 million, state-of-the-art fire training tower in Calera.

The five-story tower, complete with multiple roof types, interior and exterior stairwells and an elevator shaft, is the first of its kind in Alabama, said County Manager Alex Dudchock.

“This fire tower’s completion is the result of people working together to pull it off,” Dudchock said. “It gives our fire service professionals a means of doing training evolutions in a variety of areas.”

The county’s municipal and volunteer fire departments will use the tower to fight simulated fires in apartments, hotels, elevators, kitchens, attics and bedrooms. The tower is also equipped with gas-fueled flames operated by the flick of a switch, and a nitrogen system that creates no visibility smoke conditions.

Former Pelham Fire Chief Gary Waters, who served on the tower’s planning committee, said the tower represents “a spirit of cooperation” among county government, municipal government, fire departments and community organizations. A total of 24 investors backed the project.

“Now we have no excuse for getting firefighters hurt and killed in burning buildings in Shelby County,” Waters said.

Following a brief ribbon cutting ceremony, officials were able to tour the tower. Alabaster Mayor David Frings looked on from the rooftop as a Pelham Fire Captain Mike Reid scaled the tower’s wall as part of a drill. Pelham Mayor Don Murphy looked out from a simulated apartment balcony as firefighters explained training procedure.

Alabaster Fire Chief Frank Matherson credited Dudchock for leading the project at the tour’s conclusion.

“Alex was the driving force behind this and without him I don’t think this would have happened,” Matherson said. “This is a great day for the fire service in this county.”