COLEMAN, Texas – With help from a $ 50,000 grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority, the Coleman Fire Department will open a live-fire training facility where firefighters from across the region can gain hands-on experience invaluable in the fight against fires in a controlled environment.

The Community Development Partnership Program grant, paired with matching funds of $ 19,000, will fund the construction of a one-story steel “burnt building” that can be configured for a variety of training exercises. Coleman Fire Chief Jimmy Watson said the training facility will likely be built near the city’s airport, which will allow Coleman firefighters to easily train in the area while still being able to respond to emergency calls that arise during training sessions.

“As soon as I got the email about the grant, I broadcast it to everyone and my phone blew up,” Watson said. “Everyone is thrilled and morale has definitely jumped forward. It was as if my birthday and Christmas were one and the same.

Chief Executive Officer Phil Wilson said the LCRA is pleased to play a role in supporting first responders and improving public safety.

“This training facility will give firefighters valuable first-hand knowledge on safer and more efficient fire extinguishing techniques,” Wilson said. “Just imagine the difference between learning in a controlled shot, with your trainer right next to you showing you what you’re doing right and wrong, versus learning in a real fire where one mistake could be devastating. “

He said the center will provide lasting benefits.

“The training at the new center will result in more highly trained firefighters, which will help increase public safety,” Wilson said. “LCRA is proud to participate in this project.

The Coleman Fire Department built a burning building in the early 1980s, but it was not designed to withstand live fire training and deteriorated over time, Watson said. For about 10 years, Coleman firefighters had to travel to College Station for full-scale drills inside a burnt down building. The limited amount of hands-on training has hampered the development of its service and its ability to recruit and retain firefighters, Watson said.

“We train our firefighters, who are mostly volunteers, the best we can, but when you can’t put them in a live fire scenario, they don’t know what’s normal and what isn’t. not, and whether they are effective or ineffective, ”Watson said. “We have to pair them up with older people, and they just follow along a bit. It is ineffective.

Too often, Watson said, his department has had to resort to training related to manuals and presentations that aren’t particularly engaging and aren’t as effective as learning by fighting a real fire.

“I remember the first time I walked into a burnt down building,” he said. “I talked about it for months. When there is the opportunity to train live, you want to train, you want to introduce yourself. Having that option here again after so long is going to be amazing. I don’t think I can quantify the benefit we’re going to get from it.

He said the burnt building would also be open to firefighters from across the region.

The Community Grant is one of 32 recent grants under LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program, which helps volunteer firefighters, local governments, emergency responders and nonprofit organizations fund capital improvement projects in LCRA’s wholesale power, water and transmission service areas. The program is part of LCRA’s efforts to give back to the communities it serves.

Applications for the next round of grants will be accepted in January. More information is available at

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Milton S. Rodgers