Tower simulates burning buildings to train firefighters

(Madeleine Wright, WPRI-TV)

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — It looks like red Lego bricks put together, but with catwalks and stairways for firefighters to access different areas.

The Warwick Fire Department’s new Mobile Training Facility, housed at Station 8 on Post Road, will allow fire crews from the city and elsewhere to practice making their way through a smoky, burning building. In the past, they’ve trained in empty homes and other areas near T.F. Green Airport. The facility was dedicated Friday morning.

Mobile? Yes, the building is on wheels. And not unlike Legos, it’s multiple shipping containers piled on top of each other and snapped into place.

“This is something I wanted to do quite a few years ago, but the expense of it, the city of Warwick couldn’t afford,” said Warwick’s Chief Edmund Armstrong.

The facility was paid for with an $894,989 Assistance to Firefighters federal grant — which also paid for new sprinkler and alarm systems for the department.

Rooms are dark inside. Chains, steel racks and ladders make up the modular facility. A trapdoor lets trainees rescue people below grade. They can also practice rappelling up the building.

“It’s a statewide asset,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island). “Other departments will come in and use it.”

The facility couldn’t have come any sooner, Lt. Jason Erban of the department said: “All the expansion, with the concrete of the airport and the demolition of buildings surrounding the airport, has created confined space problems or construction-related accidents.”

The facility is dedicated to Erban’s father, the late Battalion Chief Richard Erban, who passed away in February.

The fire department expects the facility to last and train generations of firefighters to keep the public safe.

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