By Kari Adams
Butler County Times Gazette – November 12, 2015
For the past several years, the Board of Trustees at Butler Community College have worked to not only promote, but to provide the best resources for their Fire Science Program on the El Dorado campus. During their meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the trustees took another step toward making the program the best in the region.
“I’m here tonight to request the purchase of a fire training facility for our Fire Science Department,” began Dean of Fire Science Anita Mills. “First, I have to tell you about two things: the why and the how. This new facility is going to provide them (the students) with the ability to participate in real life fires. We’re trying to prepare future fighters for a very dangerous job. We’re very limited in the opportunity for them to practice.”
She also spoke of how the college would benefit from the training facility as far as promoting their program.
“If we were to pair this with our residency program (a program that allows the students from the Fire Science Program to be paired with a firefighter out in the field), we would be the premier program in Kansas,” Mills explained. “Our competition has been very limited in their time to utilize their training tower owned by their local fire department. This is a huge marketing seller for us and it could not only be utilized by the Fire Science students, but also by our public safety students.”
She moved on to answer how the funds were going to cover the project.
“Now, to answer the ‘how,’” Mills continued. “We have over $90,000 in our fire science fee fund, which has been building for several years, to cover a large portion of the project. Holly Frontier has also pledged $10,000 and we’ve spoken with the Towanda Fire Department, the City of El Dorado, as well as the Butler County Commission in regards of funding. I can assure you, though, if we didn’t receive another dime of funding, if enrollment stayed exactly the same, we could repay the general fund over the next eight or nine years.”
She also highlighted on some of the efforts being made within the El Dorado community for the project.
“The city of El Dorado has pledged to do all the site work,” Mills said. “That includes not only the site preparation, but also all the utilities like gas, electric and water to go back to the site. That alone would cost about $100,000.”
El Dorado Fire Chief Steve Moody also addressed the trustees.
“This is an opportunity where the students and the city can utilize something during training that actually replicates real life scenarios,” he said. “During training, will will have control over everything and it will improve the amount of safety for the students. Your biggest competition is in Hutchinson, but I think our residency program is much more than what most cities are able to do because of their staffing. When we have those students with our firefighters, they’re actually doing work and fighting fires. As soon as they get their certification, they’re good to go and do an internal fire fight.”
El Dorado Fire Department Fire Captain Troy Jellison, a part-time instructor at the college, also addressed the board.
“This is an amazing facility,” Jellison said. “It’ll give the students an opportunity to walk right out the back door and practice a variety of elements for their training.”
He also explained the facility will feature a live burn room, which will be monitored for temperature, repelling stations on the rooftop, numerous secured windows and doors and piping for a facility-wide fog machine, which will allow students to practice search and rescue without the danger.
“The facility will even have a confined space tube,” Jellison said. “It’ll allow the students to practice rescuing people out of manholes. It’s going to have a lot of purposes for both the students and area fire districts.”
The facility, which is planned to be constructed just behind the fire station on West 6th Avenue, will be utilized by other agencies as well.
“It will allow the firefighters to get hands on safety training,” Moody said. “It’s a really good thing to have this kind of opportunity.”
The pre-made facility, which will be manufactured by a company in Illinois, will take 120 days to construct from start to finish.
“We have 115 students in our Fire Science program,” Mills added. “We’ve got to do what we can to get our credit hours up and gain that interest.”
Jellison, a graduate of Butler, agreed that the facility may help to increase interest in the program.
“I would have loved to go to a college that had something like this in their program,” he said. “Area agencies would also see the training benefit to their people who want to get involved with this.”
The trustees were convinced of the benefits of having the facility in town.
“It sounds like our constituents need it for their firefighters as much as we need it for our students,” said Trustee Tom McKibban.
“If you look at the departments in Augusta and Douglass, the smaller departments, they’ll never have a facility like this,” added Trustee Ken Bohon. “This will benefit all of them.”
With the hopes of completion of the facility set for Feb. 1, 2016, Mills suggested advertising the use of the building for the spring semester.
“We’d still have six weeks of school that we could get out of this building,” she said. “Our enrollment would jump.”
With that, Trustee Dr. Greg Joyce moved to approve the construction of the facility for $177,947.84 and the motion was carried 6-0.