Local News

SFSC projects planned to support new fire fighting programs

— The renovation of a building on the South Florida State College Avon Park campus will kick off $2.6 million in projects that will allow the college to offer fire fighting and fire science technology programs.

Building P looks like a warehouse with a lot of empty space. It has been used for storage for several years, SFSC Vice President of Administrative Services Glenn Little said Tuesday.

The planned renovation work for the building includes remodeling the classroom space, installing new doors and constructing new rest room facilities.

The building renovation project will be part of the college’s continuing efforts to offer a firefighter certificate program and a fire science technology degree program.

The college has been offering fire science courses for about three or four years, Little noted.

“We haven’t really started a full fire fighting program to get your fire training certification and we can’t until we get all the facilities and get them certified,” he said. “We will be doing that in the coming year.”

But, to offer the programs, the college will also need a fire tower, a burn room and fire fighting props in place, which will be located north of College Drive across from Building P, Little said. “It will be a fairly large set of structures.”

The college will be bidding those projects in the coming months.

“It’s two parts, one is remodel the building and do a bunch of site work and get it ready for a new building,” he said. “And then we will buy a pre-engineered metal building that is specifically designed for fire facilities.”

The total budget for the projects is $2.6 million, which includes architectural and engineering fees, Little said. The construction budget is around $2.3 million.

The college’s board of trustee will vote today on the recommendation to accept the low bid for the Building P renovation project, which was $1,514,692 and submitted by L. Cobb Construction Inc., Wauchula.

“It should be a program of interest; it is just that the economy has prevented a lot of job openings in the [fire fighting] field until just recently, so we have been holding off to make sure that we train people who can actually go out and get jobs,” Little said. “We will be starting up beginning as early as January with some more targeted [firefighter training] programs ... that’s when all this work should be completed.”

City of Sebring Fire Chief Brad Batz envisions many young firefighters from Highlands and surrounding counties going through the SFSC firefighter training programs because currently the closest fire academy is in Haines City and the closest to the south is in Fort Myers.

In the Heartland, “you have volunteer departments and you have career departments so we actually have the best of both worlds and need for both worlds for this training,” he said.

Batz serves on the college’s fire fighting training advisory committee.

“It would be a great thing,” he said. “We have talked about it for years and it is just now starting to evolve through time.”

Once the classrooms are ready and the drill tower, burn room and training fields with fire props are in place, “then you have a fire academy,” Batz noted.

Fire props are simulators for “live fire training,” which is required for state certification, Batz explained. An example is a mock-up of a car, which has pipes for natural gas or propane, which is lighted to create a fire. Students then go through the scenarios to extinguish the fire.

No matter where they work, any training that a firefighter receives helps them and improves safety, Batz said.


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