Oklahoma Firefighters Get Unique Driver Training

Updated: 08-07-2007 12:07:28 PM

The Oklahoman

EDMOND - The Edmond Fire Department's training center will be the only place in the United States where firefighters can learn how to drive huge fire trucks on icy roads when the temperature outside tops 90 degrees.

"There is no other equipment like this in the United States," said Fire Chief Gill Harryman. "No one has ever done this on a fire truck."

The equipment attaches to fire engine cabs and chassis. Using hydraulics, it simulates unique road conditions that a driver must work to overcome.

Edmond fire Maj. Mike Fitzgerald said the equipment allows engine drivers to practice breaking, acceleration and skid avoidance techniques in a variety of simulated road conditions.

The equipment, expected to arrive at the training center later this year, is just one of the features that will be found here.

A third phase of the five-year, multi-million dollar construction project is ongoing on 50 acres in east Edmond.

Local firefighters hope to use it to establish a regional training center.

"This will be unbelievable in three years," said Maj. Joe Elam, Edmond's assistant training officer.

Harryman said the training center's primary goal is to benefit Edmond firefighters, but the center also should improve Edmond residents' fire insurance rating.

Fire officials' third goal is to establish a regional training facility where firefighters from other departments can train for a fee.

Costs for the training will vary depending on variables such as the type of class, number of instructors and materials used.

Brian Arnold, a state fire training coordinator, agrees there is a need for a regional fire training center like Edmond's.

Edmond's plans first started becoming a reality two years ago with the completion of the $24 million Cross Timber's City Complex where the fire administration building, a fire station and training center are located on the southeast corner of Interstate 35 and Covell Road.

A five-story tower used for high-rise fire training and the first phase of a driving course are completed. This equipment is used by firefighters for routine training.

This week, Edmond firefighters used the drill tower to practice cutting holes in roofs, tearing down Sheetrock ceilings and carrying a 165-pound dummy down flights of stairs. They also extinguished an intentionally set car fire on the training grounds.

Future plans include extension of the driving course, more water hydrants and a variety of propane burn props.

Other features - a two-story search and rescue building and an electrical distribution station - are in the works, Harryman said. The electrical distribution station will allow firefighters to practice fighting electrical fires, the chief said.

Oklahoma State University Fire Training Service officials are now working with Edmond fire trainers to hold a statewide fire academy at the facility.

Firefighters from smaller towns will benefit from this program, said Jon Neely, chief training officer. He estimates up to 20 firefighters could use the training center for a three-month session.

Harryman is trying to create a training trust fund that would provide public safety training for emergency workers statewide.

The chief wants the fund to be a perpetual account where only the interest would be spent on training, maintenance and upgrading of the city's training center. Harryman said scholarships would be given to firefighters in the region to attend training sessions at the Edmond's site.