David Ashburn is a member of the Walker County Development Authority.Photo by Ryan Harris
Firefighters in Walker County, Ga., now train by extinguishing wooden pallets set afire inside shipping containers.
But the old shipping containers soon will be replaced by a prefabricated, two-story fire training tower with a "burn room."
Walker Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell on Thursday approved spending $154,000 to buy a tower made by Kansas City, Kan.-based WHP Training Towers. She chose that over a $182,000 model made in Wisconsin.
"The cheaper one meets our needs, so we're going with it," County Coordinator David Ashburn said.
County employees will clear a spot and install a concrete pad so the tower can be installed this summer at the county's emergency services headquarters in Kensington, west of LaFayette.
Officials want to have the training tower operational in time for an October visit by officials from Insurance Services Office Inc.
ISO officials told the county the training facility could help it move toward a better fire rating, which would lower insurance costs for residents and businesses.
"We have to continually improve to continue our [fire rating] or get a better status," Heiskell said.
Ashburn is waiting to hear from ISO if it wants the county to buy up to four more fire engines. The county is eyeing some refurbished engines that are a few years old and cost about $300,000 each, compared to $500,000 new, he said.
Funding for the new equipment will come from the annual fire fee that county residents pay, which is $65 a year for a single-family home and more for industrial and other uses.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.