LCRA awards $50,000 grant for new fire training center in Coleman
Facility will provide firefighters real-life experience in a controlled setting
Dec. 8, 2021
COLEMAN, Texas – With help from a $50,000 grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority, the Coleman Fire Department will open a live-fire training facility where firefighters from across the area can gain valuable hands-on experience fighting fires in a controlled setting.
The Community Development Partnership Program grant, paired with matching funds of $19,000, will pay for the construction of a single-story, steel “burn building” that can be configured for a variety of training exercises. Coleman Fire Chief Jimmy Watson said the training facility likely will be built close to the city’s airport, making it easy for Coleman firefighters to train in the area while still being able to respond to emergency calls that arise during training sessions.
“As soon as I received the email about the grant, I pushed it out to everyone and my phone blew up,” Watson said. “Everybody’s stoked and morale definitely took a jump skyward. It was like my birthday and Christmas rolled into one.”
General Manager Phil Wilson said LCRA is pleased to play a role in supporting first responders and enhancing public safety.
“This training facility will give firefighters valuable first-hand knowledge about safer, more effective fire-suppression techniques,” Wilson said. “Just imagine the difference between learning in a controlled fire, with your trainer right beside you showing you what you’re doing right and wrong, compared to learning in an actual fire where a mistake could be devastating.”
He said the center will provide long-lasting benefits.
“Training in the new center will result in more highly trained firefighters, which helps increase public safety,” Wilson said. “LCRA is proud to play a part in this project.”
The Coleman Fire Department constructed a burn building in the early 1980s, but it wasn’t designed to withstand live-fire training and deteriorated over time, Watson said. For roughly 10 years, Coleman firefighters have had to travel to College Station for full-scale exercises inside a burn building. The limited amount of hands-on training hindered his department’s development and ability to recruit and retain firefighters, Watson said.
“We train our firefighters, who are mostly volunteers, the best we can, but when you can’t put them in a live-fire scenario, they don’t know what’s normal and what’s not normal, and whether they are being effective or ineffective,” Watson said. “We have to pair them with senior people, and they just tag along for a bit. It’s inefficient.”
Too often, Watson said, his department has had to resort to training tied to manuals and presentations that are not particularly engaging and are not nearly as effective as learning by fighting a real fire.
“I remember the first time I went into a burn building,” he said. “I talked about it for months. When there’s the option of live training, you want to train, you want to show up. Having that option here again after so long is going to be amazing. I don’t think I can quantify the benefit we’re going to get from it.”
He said the burn building will be open to firefighters from across the region as well.
The community grant is one of 32 grants awarded recently through LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program, which helps volunteer fire departments, local governments, emergency responders and nonprofit organizations fund capital improvement projects in LCRA’s wholesale electric, water and transmission service areas. The program is part of LCRA’s effort to give back to the communities it serves.
Applications for the next round of grants will be accepted in January. More information is available at lcra.org/cdpp.
The Lower Colorado River Authority serves customers and communities throughout Texas by managing the lower Colorado River; generating and transmitting electric power; providing a clean, reliable water supply; and offering outdoor adventures at more than 40 parks along the Colorado River from the Texas Hill Country to the Gulf Coast. LCRA and its employees are committed to fulfilling our mission to enhance the quality of life of the Texans we serve through water stewardship, energy and community service. LCRA was created by the Texas Legislature in 1934 and receives no state appropriations. For more information, visit lcra.org.