Lonnie Madden, Chief, Sand Gap Volunteer Fire Department spoke with the McKee City Council during their regular monthly meeting held on Monday, May 20th, 2019 and gave them an update on a grant application to upgrade and enhance the fire tower training facility located on McCammon Ridge Road. Madden was appointed by Governor Bevin to the Kentucky Fire Commission and this appointment has broadened his awareness regarding available opportunities to improve the quality of our local volunteer fire departments as well as that of the state and surrounding counties. Madden asked permission from the City Council to act on their behalf to apply for a grant that would rehabilitate and improve the Fire Tower training facility located on McCammon Ridge Road. Madden informed the Council that this would be a 100% grant with no monetary obligations required from the City. However, the grant would be conditioned such that the State Fire and Rescue would be entitled to conduct training exercises at the facility on a scheduled basis. Volunteer Fire Departments from adjacent counties may also utilize the training facility on a scheduled basis. According to Madden the goal would be to improve and add to the props inside the training tower to broaden training opportunities. The additions and improvements proposed include a forcible entry prop, survival/rescue prop, a smoke maze with movable obstacles so that it is different each time, a sprinkler prop, a confined space prop, and a ventilation prop that would allow the training to include actually cutting a ventilation hole in a ceiling. The proposal also includes a Max Fire Box Phase 2. Even most fire departments and colleges with fire science programs are unable to properly train with live fire because of the cost and space needed for live burns, and even with the benefits of burn towers and similar structures, it is hard to safely demonstrate critical stages of a fire such as, flashovers, backdrafts and smoke explosions. The Max Fire Box provides an economical solution for fire behavior and thermal imaging training that doesn’t require a lot of space. It is one of the most cost effective fire behavior training tools available and its live demonstration of fire behavior and thermal imaging could save lives. This would be a great training asset for our local fire fighters.
In addition to being a training facility for local volunteer fire departments the grant also provides an opportunity to add “scent props” that would allow ongoing training for the newly established Jackson County Sheriff’s Office K-9 Unit and their dog, “Gina”. By adding this opportunity it would increase the presence of law enforcement at the training facility and help secure it from vandalism. It would also bring the K-9 unit to the facility and possibly sniff out disposed needles which could then be removed from the site and improve the safety of the volunteer firemen and anyone visiting the facility.
Chief Madden also indicated that part of the grant would be to improve the outside lighting by adding LED lights. This would significantly cut the operating costs even though the lights may only be on one night a week for a couple of hours. The total cost of the grant is $64,591.23. Madden reminded the council that the city would bear no expense since this was a 100% grant. The Fire Commission meets in June and a decision on the grant is expected this summer.