Olathe wraps up construction on new $4 million firefighter training center

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OLATHE, Kan. — A new $4 million training center will soon help prepare first responders in Olathe.

The Olathe Fire Academy is the first city building designated for training members of the Olathe Fire Department. 

Eric Barnum, division chief of professional development and safety, said the current recruitment class will be the first to use the new facility. They will start training at the new center in about two weeks. 

“What we will use it for is to recreate different types of fire environments, fire scenarios, incidents our firefighters, our members would be responding to,” Barnum said. 

The fire academy sits near Layton Drive and Hedge Lane in the western part of the city. Barnum said the location was selected to give crews quick access if an actual emergency were to occur during training. 

“The typography of the land allowed us to sit the facility down lower. Have a nice berm and a break from the west where we have our homes and a subdivision, just to be good neighbors and partners with the folks around us,” Barnum said. 

The project includes a 4-story tower that features three specialty burn rooms designed for live fire training. The facility also has several large multipurpose rooms that can be used for extractions and confined space rescue training.

The Olathe Fire Academy features three designated burn rooms.

Barnum said the fire department partners with the trades program at the Olathe School District to build walls and props for the training spaces.  

“It’s a 4-story tower with the fifth floor being open so that we can do rescue procedures, high angle rescues, rope training off of the side of the tower,” Barnum said. 

Hooks on the top floor of the training center will help firefighters practice repelling down the side of buildings.

The training center also has a PVC pipe system used to pump imitation smoke throughout the tower during training simulations. 

Barnum said the goal is to provide realistic training in the safest way possible by giving firefighters experience putting out flames in structures similar to homes, apartments, businesses and commercial buildings. 

Prior to the construction of the academy the department would have to get creative for training. He said crews would modify shipping containers to look like apartments and construct additional props to train firefighters.  

“Before we would have to do it at a station, maybe even out in the public in the roadways or in a field in an area that we could train safely. This brings all our folks to one location to be able to train in a more safe environment to recreate those different types of scenarios that our firefighters might be faced with,” Barnum said.

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