It's been a year since Coquitlam Fire/Rescue completed its new training tower at Town Centre Fire Station — across from Lafarge Lake.
But the structure, at (1300 Pinetree Way), and built with 12 shipping containers, complete with interchangeable props for various rescue scenarios, has proven to be one of the most effective practice facilities in the Tri-Cities.
Representing years of advocacy, studies and presentations by the local department's leadership, the training facility is now being used by hundreds of firefighters in the region.
"We've now got a four-storey structure. We've got 15 rooms, we can put additional walls and partitions. So it allows us to vary the structure and that variety is really important to us as firefighters, because the reality is we never know what we're going to go to," explained Coquitlam Fire/Rescue operations captain Kyle Doerksen while touring the training tower with the Tri-City News on Thursday (April 27).
He, and the rest of the Coquitlam department, believe the public should be confident in the ability of local firefighters to be prepared for almost any emergency scenario.
"Trying to create that unknowingness can be really difficult, but it's actually really essential to our jobs," Doerksen added.
"So this building allows us to do that [and] gives us lots of options....just allows us to train, evaluate and prepare like we've never been able to do before."
At $2.2-million, the durable tower replaced one that lasted for 30 years, but became outdated with new approaches to firefighting.
Designed by department members, in conjunction with hired architectural and construction firms, the facility consists of modern necessities.
This includes two burn rooms, a sloped roof system and various rope repel anchors, moveable walls to simulate residential and commercial rescues, elevator door props, and an exterior staircase and lights, and a theatrical smoke system for all rooms.
There's also a control room where training officers can activate fire and liquid smoke that's propelled through the site with carbon dioxide.
Coquitlam deputy fire chief Shawn Davidson said the project began with a feasibility study in 2018, which came with some constraints considering the heliport, trench rescue area and the creek that runs on the west side of the property.
The good news: there was enough room to support an appropriately-designed structure.
"We ended up going to [city] council, and giving a presentation to them to what they're looking for. They approved the budgets for it. And then we entered the design phase," said Davidson.
The money came from Coquitlam's Casino Municipal Reserve and Carbon Offsets Reserve.
"We modelled some of the structure after what the City of Surrey did, and then we put the things in that we wanted," added Davidson.
"One of the things that is unique to this building, is the stairway that's on the west side. It's like a combat challenge there. We wanted that to be a unique feature. We didn't see that in Delta, for example....we set the layout more different than they did."
Coquitlam's training tower has been used by other neighbouring departments, including Port Moody and Burnaby, as well as junior firefighters when the department co-hosted a camp over School District 43's spring break.
The Tri-City News also observed a simulation where six firefighters responded to a blaze at a three-storey apartment building.
An offensive water attack was performed from the truck towards the upper floor, while two members breached the left-side door and extinguished the flames on the first floor.