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January 13, 2000

$17 million emergency center spurred by fire training tower

  • Idea of shared fire training tower leads to development of emergency services center
    Journal Real Estate editor

    Several years ago, fire departments in Kitsap County had their own training towers or none at all. Today, three departments share one and the cooperation of the $500,000 project has spread to include other entities, including state and federal agencies.

    The result is an anticipated $17 million project in Bremerton that would entail the rest of a Regional Training and Emergency Services Center as well as a new National Guard Readiness Center (armory). Similar facilities are planned in Yakima and Spokane.

    Several years ago, the Bremerton Fire Department had a three-story, wooden tower that was built before World War II. Fire District 15 had a small, cinder-block tower. And Fire Districts 1 and 7 were without towers. They did, however, have an agreement with the tower-equipped departments to work together as the Joint Management Group.

    Readiness Center
    The $17 milllion Regional Training and Emergency Services Center includes an armonry.
    The group is 6 years old. Since it formed, two of the districts -- 1 and 15 -- merged into Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue.

    The entities agreed that the expense of building new towers for each department would be too much. They decided to work together to build one modern one and share it.

    "Everyone agreed that was where we wanted to be," said Joint Management Group Chairman Mick McKinley, the assistant chief in Bremerton. "We wanted to show the taxpayers we could save money by eliminating duplication."

    The group hired Rice Fergus Architects of Bremerton to design the first phase of the Emergency Services Training Building at the National Guard site on Union Avenue in Bremerton. The phase I contract included the six-story training tower constructed of cast-in-place concrete, concrete block and precast concrete plank floors.

    The structure, which was completed last summer by Drury Construction of Poulsbo, provides training to firefighters in equipment, fire suppression, safety, search and rescue, ladder and hose operations and tactics.

    "We can ladder onto the roof, which gives us a seven-story height for doing drills," said McKinley. "We have only three floors plus a basement. Eventually, this tower will be completed up to the sixth story. It will actually double in size and will have different roof pitches with different types of roofs."

    David Fergus of Rice Fergus Architects said that from an architect's perspective, planning the tower was interesting because of the various training scenarios that needed to be included. There are apartment buildings and single-family homes to consider as well as commercial facilities.

    Then there's the basement. Fergus said it can be flooded for cellar training or for the U.S. Navy, which has a large presence in Bremerton, to train for onboard ship fires.

    Drury Construction built the training tower, the projects first phase.
    Photo by Sky-Pix
    There was nothing tricky about the construction, according to Clayton Lynch of Drury Construction. The contractor did, however, have to work with the various entities to ensure their needs were met.

    Now firefighters in Kitsap County as well as officials at the National Guard, Navy and Olympic Community College in Bremerton are waiting to see if funding for Phase II is approved. If it is, the result will be the rest of the Regional Training Facility as well as the new Bremerton Readiness Center.

    The training facility has been a long-range vision of the Joint Management Group, according to Rice Fergus Architects. The efforts have been in concert with the state Military Department, which will be jointly constructing, occupying and managing the facility. Olympic College, which will provide on-site instruction in connection with its Fire Sciences Program, and the Navy also are involved.

    The 85-acre site will be developed with paved drill grounds that can accommodate six companies simultaneously, an emergency vehicle driving course, drafting pit, burn pads, hydrants and a water system that will recycle water for training operations. Built structures will include a 50,000-square-foot Readiness Center, a fire service training support building and storage structures.

    The state has selected Rice Fergus Architects and Schreiber & Lane Architects of Seattle, which Fergus said has experience working on National Guard projects, to provide the architecture and engineering services for the new Readiness Center and Regional Training Facility.

    And what of Initiative 695, the voter-approved measure that slashed state revenues? That shouldn't affect funding for the project because the initiative's impact is not on capital programs, according to Emory Lehman of the Military Department.

    "A lot of it will be decided in the [2001 state] legislative session," McKinley said. "We've already been put on the project list on the federal level by Congressman [Norm] Dicks. Projects in that pipeline are, so to speak, a reality."

    Similar projects are being planned in Spokane and Yakima, according to McKinley. The centers would work together in the event of a disaster. "So a triad of protection across the state is what we're hoping to develop," he said. "We're hoping this will become a model nationwide for the National Guard."

    Once the funding is finalized, the contractor for phase II will be selected.

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