By Rachel Christian
For years, Osceola County’s 325 paid firefighters have had to make a 25-mile trek to Mid Florida Tech in South Orlando to complete vital certifications and training.
Not any more.
County commissioners and fire rescue officials gathered Tuesday morning to celebrate
the future home of Osceola County’s first fire safety training center off Clay Street in Kissimmee.
The new 11-acre site was introduced with ceremonial silver spades and honorary hard hats.
“These training grounds will provide the men and women in our department an opportunity for something we’ve never had before – to train continuously and daily in our own backyard,” said Osceola County Fire Chief Robert Sorenson during the ceremony. “We will no longer need to take valuable, life-saving resources out of our county.”
The facility has been a long time coming. Osceola County Fire Rescue submitted a request to County Manager Don Fisher in 2012, and ever since then, the department has been allocating money from its capital improvements fund to pay for the new facility.
The county acquired the property – located near Kissimmee Gateway Airport – about four years ago after the lot went up for sale.
One of the key features of the $7.5 million project is its four-story concrete burn building training tower. The structure will teach firefighters how to navigate the hazards burning buildings create while giving personnel a place to practice window rescues and other tactics.
The new training center will also include a driving pad for emergency vehicle operation certification, which EMT and firefighters must complete on an annual basis.
There were also be shaded areas for firefighters to conduct hose and other field training, and a modular building to house small classrooms and training offices.
Sorenson said training is an essential part of any emergency services department. Firefighter and EMS personnel must complete a minimum 20 hours of training each month to comply with state agency requirements.
“Training happens each day, every day,” Sorenson said. “It is how we keep our men and women – and the public – safe.”
County Commission Chairman Fred Hawkins Jr. applauded efforts by Sorenson and local officials during Tuesday’s groundbreaking.
“By raising our training to the next level, we as an organization, will be more efficient in the application of skills on the fire ground,” Hawkins said. “I’m glad we finally found our way to make this facility a reality.”
The new fire safety-training center is expected to be operational by January.