The Anniston City Council approved Tuesday night spending around $564,000 for improvements to the fire training center at Fire Station No. 3 on McClellan Boulevard.
The money will go to renovation of the interior of a building on the site that has been mostly empty.
“It's just a complete shell,” said Fire Chief Chris Collins. “From the interior, the first couple hundred feet is nothing. It's just open space that’s just been cleared out.”
Collins said the Fire Department plans to use the money to build out around 7,400 square feet of the 38,000 square foot structure.
The additions will include classrooms for training, labs, emergency medical service classes, offices, bathrooms, small conference rooms and a break room for academy students. Currently, Fire Station No. 3 only has one classroom that can serve 18 academy students, according to Collins.
“By adding these two 24-person classrooms, that will greatly expand our ability to offer more training,” he said.
City Manager Jay Johnson said this is only the first phase of planned renovations for the site and that other improvements will be made as money becomes available. He added that the $555,000 was included in general obligation bonds that the council approved last year.
Johnson said the opportunity for additional training for local fire crews and the station’s status as a regional training center make the improvements beneficial to the community.
“There are both professional and volunteer firefighters from throughout Northeast Alabama and even other states, that come to this facility to train,” Johnson said.
Many of the renovation ideas, included the conference rooms, came from a 2018 in-house survey of academy students, Collins said.
“A lot of our fire officer certification classes, they break up in teams and they work on some pretty big projects that they have to work together in,” he said. “Having the ability to break up and go into a room that is away from the main classroom where they can work on their projects just as a group, that was one of the things that was mentioned."
Collins said that the expansion will benefit students who come to the facility for training and local firefighters. Having a training center in town saved the department around $20,000 last year in travel, food and lodging costs, he said.
“Our crews that run calls in Anniston also utilize the site for training themselves,” said Collins. “So the state of the art equipment we've got there also helps us hone our skills, and really become more prepared for the calls that we're going to be running. Not just dealing with fires and rescue situations, but also with EMS as well."