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Burn tower training begins at new facility
6 Burn Tower pic 6
From the entrance window on the burn tower's second floor, a fire fighter directs new recruits on a mission to enter the building, scale the stairs and extinguish a live fire in the training facility's burn room. - photo by Photo/Michele Hester

Fire fighting capabilities increased late last month when Dawson County Emergency Services began live fire training with the county’s new burn tower.


Funded entirely by impact fees collected from developers to offset impact on public services, the three-story training facility better equips emergency services personnel in saving lives, Dawson County Emergency Services Chief Lanier Swafford said.


“It couldn’t come at a better time, with emergency services facing budget cuts like every other department,” he said.


“We are thankful it’s another project that we’ve been able to complete for the benefit of our personnel.”


Training exercises began last week at the new facility, which is constructed of corrugated steel with components geared to withstand heat up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit.


Designed with simulated gas and electrical disconnects, repelling anchors on the roof for rope rescue and replaceable “chop outs” at the roof level, the training tower will give emergency services personnel the most realistic training aid possible.


“It’s allowing us to continue to offer live fire training to our personnel without incurring the cost of using a similar facility in another agency,” Swafford said.


In the past for training, emergency services either had to acquire a structure to burn, which required going through EPD testing, took a period of time and was labor intensive, or send personnel to other counties or agencies that had burn rooms.


It is not often that emergency service personnel have the opportunity to train with three story buildings.


Until now, most of the department’s multi-story training was conducted at the fire academy in Forsyth, Ga.


 “As the county continues to grow, we’re going to see more and more multi-level buildings constructed. Having this will enhance the ability of our people to prepare for emergencies in these types of situations,” Swafford said.


The new training facility is expected to reduce the county’s ISO rating, which determines the cost of homeowner’s insurance based on emergency service’s ability to serve its citizens.


While firefighters will benefit the most from the burn room and tower, other county agencies, such as CERT, will also be able to improve service operations.


Additionally, nearby Forsyth County emergency services personnel were invited to take part in the inaugural training sequences, according to Dawson County Assistant Chief Robbie Hughey.


“We have a mutual aid agreement with Forsyth station 7, but we’re on different radio frequencies than they are, so that makes it difficult. We’ve got to learn how to communicate on that level. This gives us the opportunity to train with their fire fighting personnel, to get familiar with them and let them see how we operate,” he said.


The county plans to hold an open house for the public to tour the burn tower and learn about its capabilities in the near future, although the date has not yet been set.


E-mail Michele Hester at