Key Peninsula Fire Department’s Hal Wolverton, left, and Robert Fisher were instrumental in procuring a pair of shipping containers to be turned into a training prop, located behind the Key Center fire station. Photo courtesy Anne Nesbit

Key Peninsula firefighters will soon have a new training prop to practice on. And the department built it for a fraction of the price it would normally cost.

According to Anne Nesbit, administrative assistant and volunteer lieutenant with the Key Peninsula Fire Department, the department purchased two shipping containers that are being converted into a two-story building, complete with doors, windows and a staircase.

Nesbit said the idea started about six months ago when two of their members, firefighter, Robert Fisher and training chief Hal Wolverton spotted two containers on the peninsula and figured out a way to purchase them and get them to the back of the Key Center station.

“We’re always looking at how we can maximize our training without having to spend a lot of money because we’re a department that’s always minding our budget.

“If we can create something that our firefighters can practice on – and save some money –– we’ll do it,” Nesbit said.

On the open market, a similar structure would cost “about $80,000,” Nesbit said. “But by doing the work ourselves it will cost us about $8,000.”

Many Key Peninsula businesses, organizations and individual citizens stepped up to help pay for the project, which included purchasing the containers, hauling them to Station 45, pouring a concrete pad for the foundation and stacking one unit on top of the other.

The resulting structure simulates a two story home complete with moveable walls.

“We can create different scenarios, like real smoke from floor to ceiling so we can do search and rescue, practice in a confined space and make a competence course,” Nesbit added.

Training exercises will also include wall breaching, ventilation, second-floor ladder access and roof work.

“We don’t have any place in the district that we can practice this stuff. We usually have to go to North Bend,” she said. “They use live fire. We don’t use live fire.”

Assistant Fire Chief Guy Allen was quick to point out the benefits of the new training prop.

“It gives us the ability to put a ladder up against the side of a building that our people can actually climb up,” he said.

Department members used to do that at some of the stations, but the department suffered some roof damage over the years, Allen said, adding that now “it’s kind of taboo” to use the fire stations for training.

“This gives us an opportunity to do all that work. And doing ladder operations –– we don’t do that very often –– so when we have to do that kind of work, we’re exposing our people to a lot of hazards and they need to practice that a lot more often,” he said.

According to Nesbit, there were a couple of house fires on the Peninsula this summer, and at one of them firefighters “actually went up on the roof,” Nesbit said. “We don’t usually go up on the roof because of our response time. So having this prop is going to be a very important factor in making our firefighters safer because we’ll be able to practice. And by us being safer, the community is safer.”

The great thing about the project “is that some of our own guys had the vision that they wanted to create this training prop here so our people could get skills and improve their abilities,” Allen said. “And the way the community came together to respond so favorably. This is one of those little projects in the background that has a number of fingers in it –– the willingness of multiple people to be proud of their contributions to our community.”

The Department hopes to have the new training prop finished in early October, hopefully to coincide with the annual farm tour, officials said.

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