After nearly 25 years and thousands of live burn exercises, a 1,200-square-foot fire training facility in Burnsville is ready to crumble, according to Eagan Fire Chief Mike Scott.
“We got our years out of it, and we’ve been having a lot of maintenance issues with it," Scott said. "It’s essentially just disintegrating."
Which is why Apple Valley, Burnsville, Lakeville and Eagan—the four cities that use the shared facility—each contributed $500,000 this year for a serious overhaul of the site, located near the intersection of Hwy. 13 and Interstate 35W in Burnsville.
On Monday, the Burnsville Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of a rezoning request to facilitate the renovation of the site. The request will likely go before the Burnsville City Council on Oct. 16 for final approval.
If approved, construction on a new, 1,690-square-foot fire training facility could begin this fall, with a tentative completion date sometime next summer, Scott said.
The new facility would be used by ABLE, a joint powers agreement between the four member cities contributing to the project. As part of the reconstruction of the site, the current fire training building would be torn down, and a new, three-story structure with an attached four-story tower built in its place, Scott said.
The new building will offer plenty of advantages to local firefighters, Scott said.
Live burns can only be conducted in one room of the current facility, which limits the variety of training scenarios that can be staged in the building, Scott said. The new facility, however, will allow burns in multiple rooms, and firefighters will be able to use the unique architecture of the proposed structure to simulate fires in single-family homes, small businesses and multi-family dwellings.
The proposed building even has an attached garage where firefighters can practice extinguishing car fires, Scott said.
Firefighters will also be able to rappel from the tower, practice forced entry training and conduct exercises in the winter, Burnsville Fire Chief BJ Jungmann said. Because the current facility doesn't have proper drainage, departments using it in the winter had to deal with hazardous ice build-up, Jungmann said.
Fire departments may use the new facility as many as 85 times a year, with half of those training sessions including a live burn, according to Quinn Hutson, who represents the architectural firm designing the building. Hutson spoke on Monday at the Burnsville Planning Commission meeting.
”This is a collaboration among four cities, and I think we need more of this kind of thing happening in our municipalities," Planning Commission member Ramraj Singh said. "It shows that they can work together for a common good."