"Flashover" capability is added at the Edina training tower.
An Edina training center for firefighters and other public safety personnel is getting a long-delayed update that officials say will make it unique in the region.
The South Metro Public Safety Training Facility in Braemar Park is adding "flashover burners" to its seven-story tower where firefighters train.
The burners, which will be installed in a second-floor hallway and in a simulated bedroom on the sixth floor, will mimic what fires do when they get out of control and start racing across walls and ceilings.
"We have so many people living in highrises now, and people are doing rescues at that level," said Debra Fields, the facility's executive director. "There's nothing else like it in the whole Midwest."
The training center opened in 2004. It is owned by the cities of Bloomington, Edina and Eden Prairie and the Metropolitan Airports Commission, and it is run under a joint powers agreement. Police from all four partners and firefighters from the three cities train at the site, and other cities and agencies sometimes rent time at the facility. It also has gun ranges, classrooms and a defensive tactics training room.
Two stories of the tower are set up like a residence, with rooms that can simulate fires in a kitchen stove and in a living room. There's also an elevator shaft, a maze, a roof like those found on commercial buildings, and different types of windows. Public safety personnel practice their rope skills climbing up and down the tower, and the building can be pumped full of smoke for rescue exercises.
Flashover burners were supposed to be part of the building from the start, but they were dropped for budget reasons, Fields said. Now the three cities have kicked in a total of about $550,000 for the new burners. Installation should be completed this fall, with the first use expected in November, she said.
The bedroom with flashover capability will contain a faux metal bed that doesn't burn but presents the same kind of bulk a real piece of furniture would have in a room. At a time when more people, especially seniors, are living in highrises, Fields thinks the center's new training capability is worth the investment.
"It's very important for these suburbs to have something like this to train at," she said. "I don't think you could have better training than we do here."
Fire training centers are scattered around the metro area. Some cities have their own, while others band together as Bloomington, Edina and Eden Prairie have.
Fields said fire departments are required to conduct a "live burn" exercise every two years.
Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380