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Fire training facility passes through Planning Board

September 23, 2009
Gilford Fire Rescue, which received selectmen approval on Sept. 9 to move forward with a fire training facility proposal, got the same response from the Planning Board Monday.

Planning Board Chair Polly Sanfacon said that the board couldn't outright approve or disapprove Chief James Hayes's presentation, but that the Planning Board was still a requirement in order for the Fire Department to continue on with their plan. The board instead voted in support of the fire training facility.

Hayes presented the site plan to the board, including a site plan from 1987 which showed the Recycling Center on Kimball Road near the Laconia Airport, where the department plans to use their training site, before it was a recycling center and still a land fill area. Hayes added that Sheldon Morgan from the Department of Public Works drew out a new sketch in order to show where other buildings and land masses stand from one another.

"The facility will be way in the back of the Recycling Center. The boundary line cuts where the wetlands are," said Hayes. "We are using about an acre and a half of land. We want to use the existing space. We are not expanding on it."

Hayes said that the proposed training facility will house seven series of used containers about 8-feet wide and 40-feet long, which Tilton Storage plans to sell them. When the steel structures interlock together, they will become a self supporting structure, said Hayes. The overall structure will be about 20 x 40-feet, and is meant to simulate a large residential structure, said Hayes.

So far, this proposed facility is one of the only steel-made structures Hayes claims to know of since the majority are made of cement, although Concord has a similarly constructed site, and there a few other training sites in New Hampshire, added Hayes.

"It is a common application for these times. There is more versatility and the cost is less," said Hayes. "It gives us flexibility…we will have moveable walls to change the interior configuration. We don't yet have a facility that allows us to squirt water or use smoke."

The Fire Department and firefighters usually have to travel to Concord to do such hands on training said Hayes, training that comes with a price tag and gas mileage.

Hayes told the board that the facility would also be a resource for the town of Gilford, and that other departments would have the option to rent out the facility, which would bring in some much-needed revenue for the Fire Department.

Town Planner John Ayer, along with the Town Administrator Scott Dunn, helped Hayes pick out seven potential sites for the facility proposal, and only the Recycling Center site got high marks all around, said Hayes.

All the other sites had prior limits or restrictions, said Hayes, although the present proposed site was once a concern of the DES as well, considering it was a landfill area. Hayes assured the board that the site his department mapped out is not the area filled with waste, but with non-harmful substances such as brush and stumps and therefore does not impinge on DES restrictions.

The Fire Department plans to use the facility for training purposes such as hose line evolutions, fire fighter operations, and especially smoke use for fire fighter training, said Hayes, which would be done mostly with hay.

Gilford Fire Rescue plans to pay for the facility and is looking to raise about $30,000 for building construction. Hayes said the department plans to do as much fundraising as they can this winter, and hopefully start working on detail planning for the facility and take some action by next spring.

John Morgenstern from the Planning Board commended the Fire Department for their hard work on the proposal and agreed with Sanfacon's suggestion that the board should write a letter to the Fire Department, to the board, and to the administrators in support of the training facility proposal.

Martin Lord Osman
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