The Minot Fire Department will soon have to vacate its training grounds located directly south of the Minot International Airport. Plans are under way to construct a new main terminal as part of an airport expansion project. The plan also calls for additional parking, primarily on the land currently occupied by the fire training facility.
"We have to move. There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it," said C.J. Craven, Minot fire chief. "We are working toward finding a location to move the buildings and already have some estimates on that."
The Minot Fire Department trains its own firefighters. Much of the training is conducted at the existing facility that includes two classrooms, a burn building, repelling tower, three working hydrants, auto extrication area, three railroad cars and a mobile home. Minot Rural and other area fire departments often use the facility in conjunction with the Minot Fire Department.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN • The tower at the Minot Fire Department training facility will be demolished to make way for expansion of the International Airport. The pole construction of the tower will not allow it to be moved.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN • Minot Fire Chief C.J. Craven stands inside the “burn building” at the department’s training grounds adjacent to the International Airport. The building is scheduled to be moved to provide room for additional airport parking.
"What is especially important is the burn building," said Craven. "There, firefighters get live fire experience. We need training grounds. It will be very tough to have the grounds out of commission for any length of time."
According to Craven, the process has begun to obtain permission from the Environmental Protection Agency to allow a new training grounds to be built near Maysa, at an undeveloped area over an old landfill owned by the city.
When a final site is approved, buildings at the existing Fire Training Center would be moved to the new location with the exception of the training tower. The tower has several important uses in training firefighters, including repelling. However, it is of pole construction and cannot be moved.
"Any tower would have to be new," said Craven. "Funding is an issue. All of this doesn't have to be done at the same time, but we hope to make the move in less than a month."
A quick relocation is considered vital to avoid any lapses in training of firefighters, old and new. The department employs 46 firefighters, three who are assigned to the airport. Twenty of them have less than four years of experience.
"Training was a lot simpler in the past when we didn't have the turnover that we've had now," said Craven, explaining that several firefighters have left the department for jobs in the oil fields.
Keeping firefighters close to their stations, says Craven, is a very important consideration. The Maysa site will allow firefighters to train while on duty without being so far out of position that they couldn't rapidly respond to calls when necessary. The area will have to be leveled and city services, sewer and water, brought to the site. It is expected that engineering planning will be completed this winter so that construction can begin in the spring.
In regard to the possibility of smoke created at the facility adversely effecting businesses and homes in the vicinity, Craven says it is not an issue.
"We generate very little smoke. We're good neighbors," assured Craven.