SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — Firefighters across northern Rhode Island will now be able to hone their skills in a realistic setting.
A new training and practice facility opened Friday at the Smithfield Fire Department. Chief Robert Seltzer said the two 40-foot containers allow them to conduct live burns, meaning crews will work with real flames, smoke, and heat in firefighting and search-and-rescue simulations.
Area firefighters previously trained using simulated fire.
Seltzer said they’ll now be able to gain valuable experience for responding to large structure fires, which is especially important since those have become less frequent in recent years.
“Our crews are not honing their tactical skills when our typical fires are quickly extinguished with minimal effort,” he said. “Then when we have significant fire events, the tactics become challenging.”
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi, and Woonsocket Rep. Stephen Casey were on hand Friday to tour the facility and present a $50,000 legislative grant to the Greater Woonsocket Fire Chiefs Mutual Aid Association. That, along with a more than $45,000 FEMA grant secured by Reed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman David Cicilline, will largely fund the new center.
“We are in a situation now where we ask a lot of our firefighters,” Reed said. “We ask them to sacrifice their safety for our safety, and we can’t do that unless we provide them the appropriate training, so that they know exactly what to do.”
“As the fire chief pointed out, as fire incidents decline, the need for actual training increases,” he continued.
The total cost of the project was $111,000. Officials said the remaining $15,000 was put up by the local fire departments that will utilize it.