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Hamilton County looks to fund public safety training center

HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — A proposed Hamilton County Public Safety Training Center would provide one stop shopping for firefighters and other emergency personnel to practice life saving techniques.

Noblesville, Westfield and Fishers have all approved resolutions to provide $40,000 a year in operational costs. The Carmel City Council will soon consider the proposal.

The centralized training center would be housed on 96 acres in Noblesville. The site is already used for some training but firefighters can only practice live burns in shipping containers.

Other training is done in empty warehouses using a smoke simulator. That’s how Fishers’ firefighters spent their day Wednesday – something repeated throughout the year. The goal is to help firefighters learn best practices to achieve their number one goal: save lives.

But a smoke simulator in an empty building isn’t the same as a live fire. That’s why a proposal for a $3 million Public Safety Training Center in Hamilton County is a priority according to Fishers Fire Chief Steven Orusa.

“The challenge for us is that there is nowhere to do live fire training,” Orusa said. “The first time a firefighter experiences a real fire in a hostile environment shouldn’t be on a real fire. It should be in a controlled training environment so they can recognize the hazards and manage those hazards.”

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said there are still questions on funding the facility.

“We want our people to be well trained and safe. The question is how is this going to support itself ongoing, not just the initial contribution,” Brainard said. “But how is this going to work as a combined training facility over the next couple of decades.”

Orusa said fires are more dangerous now than ever, burning faster and hotter, because of lightweight construction. He and other fire chiefs have a duty to keep their crews safe, he said, while making them most effective.

“Firefighters need to have these experiences, experience the stress, be able to crisis rehearse before they’re in the real thing in a controlled training environment so they can get the sets and reps to do it safely,” Orusa said.

Tony Murray, President of the Hamilton County Professional Firefighters Association Local 4416, said they are committed to getting the money for this project. Murray said they have talked about building a training center for about 20 years and consider it a top priority.

There is no date for when the Carmel City Council will vote on the proposal. It did pass out of the Finance Committee. It is expected to go before the Hamilton County Council sometime next month for funding approval.