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Tulsa Fire Begins Construction On New Training Academy

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More than 30 Tulsa firefighters rushed in and out of the smoke in the old recreation center at Ziegler Park. More than 30 Tulsa firefighters rushed in and out of the smoke in the old recreation center at Ziegler Park.
District Fire Chief Stacy Belk. District Fire Chief Stacy Belk.
When it's finished, Tulsa Fire will have a flexible training facility, where they can use real fire and smoke. When it's finished, Tulsa Fire will have a flexible training facility, where they can use real fire and smoke.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

The City of Tulsa broke ground Friday on a $13 million fire training academy. It's the start of a campus to teach skills that firefighters say will make you safer.

Firefighters do a lot of classroom training, but for real firefighting they need a building they can burn, otherwise their first real taste of fire might be at your house.

More than 30 Tulsa firefighters rushed in and out of the smoke in the old recreation center at Ziegler Park.

The building wasn't really on fire, just filled with theater smoke for a training exercise. It's as realistic as they can make it, considering the building never changes and they can't set it on fire.

The problem is that, in real fires, they encounter unknown situations, with real fire, smoke and heat.

5/17/2012 Related Story: Tulsa Fire Cadets Soak Up Training While Fighting Flames

"If we just get complacent and start searching right-hand every time, then we go in right-hand. And if your house is set up with the bedrooms on the left-hand, and it's 3 o'clock in the morning, we want them to go to the bedrooms, because that's where you're most likely to be at 3 o'clock in the morning," said District Fire Chief Stacy Belk.

Things will change in a year and half, when a new fire safety academy opens.

Ground was broken, Friday, for the building. When it's finished, Tulsa Fire will have a flexible training facility, where they can use real fire and smoke. Other departments will be able to train there, as well, through a program with Tulsa Community College.

"We also see avenues for mass disaster training, where police, fire, public works might come together and jointly train," said TCC President Tom McKeon.

But for now, as they've done for the last two years, Tulsa firefighters will continue to train over and over again in a building they've used for the last couple of years.

Chief Belk believes they can teach the skills there, but they need to teach them without creating habits from doing the same thing over and over. In the new academy, they can do that.

"So, every time they do a training drill that's the same, and they go right, then they're going to go right into your house, and you may be in the bedroom. So, it gives us more variations and different scenarios, so that we stay more in-tune with every aspect of our techniques and not just one way," Belk said.

The current Tulsa fire academy was built in the 1950s. The new one is being built with money from city taxpayers, approved by a public vote in 2005.

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