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Fire officials laud training center
"Don't try this at home.Two lines of firefighter trainees in bright yellow helmets and brown protective gear inched forward with their hoses trained on the ball of flame shooting skyward from a propane tank. In the middle, a team leader distinguished by a red helmet directed them forward or back in their efforts to put out the flame.Actually, the cones of spray from the hoses wouldn't put out the flame.If done right, the water would disperse the flames long enough for the team leader to nip in and shut off the valve to the line feeding the blaze.Doing it right was the purpose of the exercise for firefighters in training from the Olympic College public service program.Doing it at that particular location was the wonder of the event Tuesday when federal, state and local officials gathered for a preview of the new Kitsap Emergency Services Readiness Center at the National Guard Armory in Bremerton.The center is a joint project of Olympic College, the U.S. Navy, Kitsap County fire districts and the National Guard, which owns the 38-acre site. Once completed it will provide professional accredited firefighting training for members of the military, local fire districts and commercial sailors.The seven-story stair tower, basement rooms and movable black metal props on burn pads, where the live burn training demonstration took place, are just the beginning of things to come, said Mick McKinley, assistant chief of the Bremerton Fire Department and a Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue commissioner.On a large, colorful site plan, McKinley pointed out future facilities like the Readiness Center, a 58,000 square-foot structure that would replace a World War II-vintage building slated for demolition next to the armory; a field house; facilities support building; fire investigator's classroom; water recycling pond; and perhaps the coroner's office.It's a good location for the coroner's office from a training and education standpoint, said county coroner Greg Sandstrom.Sandstrom said it would serve as a training and education center for paramedics, as well as for instruction in how to preserve crime scenes for law enforcement.CKFR Battalion Chief Dan Schold said the next step, apart from getting legislative appropriations to complete the training campus, will be to set up temporary classrooms in a northeast corner until the readiness center is built.One wing of the readiness center will house the National Guard, along with a large area where Guard vehicles will be serviced. The other wing will include administrative offices and classrooms for firefighter trainees.Schold said a $3 million appropriation by the Legislature got the design phase of the project under way. Beginning the training tower, basement rooms, burn pads and props are another part of Phase I, Schold said.The concrete, bunker-type rooms soon will be fitted with other equipment - including pipes to infuse them with smoke - to simulate different types of fires and scenarios. One of the basement areas will be fitted with equipment from decommissioned ships like the cruisers USS California and the Virginia, to simulate the overhead pipes, control panels, bulkheads and hatches at-sea Navy firefighters have to deal with. The room will also have the capability to have flooding as well as fire as a scenario.Schold said the Navy also wants to include a site to train personnel to fight cargo container fires.It's wonderful. We're getting started at the ground floor in the ability to influence construction, said Navy Capt. Mike Matthews during the tour of the roughed-in basement training room. Matthews is the commanding officer of the Trident Training Facility at Subase Bangor.Matthews commented on another important reason for building the Readiness Center - the location.Currently, firefighter trainees in western Washington have to go to North Bend, east of Issaquah, for mandatory training.We have a real vested interest in trying to minimize travel time for people, Matthews said. And the specialized facilities being constructed at the site are much more representative of what surface ships have to deal with.State Sen. Betti Sheldon and representatives from the office of U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, were on hand for the demonstration.Both have been involved with and supportive of the facility from its beginning, McKinley noted.From the very moment we started talking about it (Sheldon) came to every meeting. This would not have been possible without her, he said.I love it, it's great, commented Capt. Ron McKiernan, training officer for the Bremerton Fire Department. "