City Hall annex provides fire training opportunity

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 | 6:51 p.m. CDT; updated 9:54 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — The Columbia Fire Department will use the former Farm & Home Savings Building as a training area for firefighter recruits on Wednesday.

The Fire Department will use the building for search-and-rescue drills from 1 to 4 p.m. at the building located at Broadway and Eighth Street. Plans call for filling the building with smoke. Department spokesman Steven Sapp said the drills will not damage the building.

“We’re going to use theatrical smoke, and no real fire will be used,” Sapp said.

The drills are part of an 11-week, 440-hour training program run by the fire department.

Sapp said it’s rare that the department can use an actual building rather than the training building and tower that the fire department owns. He said there are benefits to using a real structure.

“We get familiar with the burn building layout, even though we have props that we can move and change it up,” he said. “(Using a real building) adds that sense of realism; we haven’t been out to everybody’s house, so we don’t know how they’re laid out.”

The training exercise is the first of two that will take place in the building, which was most recently used as a City Hall annex and housed the utility billing, purchase and payroll offices. The building is now vacant and eventually will be razed to make way for a major addition to the Daniel Boone City Building.

Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the second training exercise, which has not been scheduled, will damage the building and will take place on a date closer to the demolition.

“The next training session talks about doing more entry-type skills, which will probably result in some interior damage,” St. Romaine said. The date of the demolition will not be set until the city selects a general contractor for the entire City Hall project. Bidding for that job opens April 2 and the new addition to City Hall will take about 18 months to build.

Once the new addition is built, city officials will move into the new building while renovations are made in the old one.

St. Romaine said that the sooner city workers can move into the new building, the better. Having employees housed in non-city-owned property is expensive.

“We are playing close to $300,000 year on external rent,” he said.

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