The Columbia Fire Department trains recruits and firefighters for situations they’re likely to face inside a real burning house.
Over the past 20 years, the building has been burned more than 300 times.
But there hasn’t been fire inside since May. The structure has been declared unfit for such use.
Repairing the building is a priority among the fire-related projects on the 2015 capital improvement sales tax projects list, said Assistant Fire Chief Brad Fraizer.
Voters will decide on Aug. 4 whether to extend the existing sales tax at its current level for another 10 years. The tax, last approved in 2005, is one-fourth of 1 percent for construction, maintenance, repairs and replacements of city infrastructure like public works and public safety buildings and vehicles and roads. It is set to expire Dec. 31.
A total of $500,000 has been budgeted for fire training academy repairs. In addition, $10.5 million is budgeted for replacement of 10 fire trucks over the next 10 years. Almost $1.1 million is designated for repairs to Fire Stations 4, 5 and 6, and another $1 million is set aside for acquiring land for future fire stations.
If the sales tax is extended for another decade, it is estimated to generate $63 million in revenue for the city — $10 million for the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years and another $53 million in revenue for the 2018 through 2026 fiscal years.
Rust is a major culprit in the deterioration of the fire department’s training academy on Big Bear Boulevard. Exposure to dampness has caused significant rusting of steel support beams and stairways.
Interior door frames and exterior window shutters are corroded. Latches on shutters don’t work, Fraizer said. Doors and windows that don’t work properly are safety concerns for trainees, he said.
Until the building is usable again, Fraizer said the department could conduct training in facilities belonging to other agencies. Availability could be an issue, however, especially on short notice, he said.
Three Columbia fire stations are on the list of priorities to receive funding, should the sales tax be extended.
Engineer Mark Poole described the living room of Station 4 in winter: With just one, large single-pane picture window as a barrier to the elements outside, “the wind feels like it goes right through there,” he said. Firefighters turn up the thermostat, he said, increasing the energy costs.
Eight quints, one ladder truck and one squad truck are on the list for replacement. The quints carry firefighters, ground and extended ladders, water pumps and up to 500 gallons of water. The ladder truck carries a series of ladders, and the squad truck carries the “jaws of life” and other rescue equipment but no hoses or a water tank.
For more information, view www.columbiamissourian.com