Templeton Fire Chief Jim Langborg pulled open the heavy steel door on an empty 40-foot shipping container and stepped inside.
“This can be a house, an apartment, a commercial building, just about anything,” he said.
The Templeton Fire Department is gearing up to make the large boxy space, known as a seatrain, and three others like it into a regional facility for emergency response training.
They will stack them together and fill them with fake walls, blackened rooms and obstacle courses.
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“You can modify them to simulate a variety of situations,” Langborg said.
Essentially, once established, the area will provide one contained site for training rather than using the current temporary scenarios around town.
“We’ve been trained to rethink how we train,” he said of their resources, which while limited are appreciated.
Practice burns aren’t part of the new facility, although a burnable trailer is on the department’s wish list.
Today, training typically occurs in three-hour sessions, twice a month, for about 20 volunteer firefighters.
One spot is at Templeton High School, but firefighters say they have to be careful not to scratch the walls with their ladders, and they can’t cut into the roof to practice smoke ventilation.
“We need a place where firefighters can learn and maintain their skills,” Langborg said.
They can also prop ladders against the sides of the new space and prepare the roofs for climbing. Inside, they can practice maneuvering through small spaces while wearing their weighty packs and gear.
Once complete, the structures will allow for drills by multiple agencies throughout the county. The project, slated to begin construction in the spring, will have its own fenced-in area on Creekside Ranch Road.
It will be on agricultural land owned by the Templeton Community Services District that’s slated to be a park one day. The facility is estimated to cost $10,000 to start, which will come from the fire department’s budget. They are also seeking donations. It will take up to $30,000 to equip it with all the necessary tools over time, Langborg said.
San Luis Obispo County planners say the permits required to build the facility would either be a conditional use permit to go before the county’s Planning Commission or a minor use permit that doesn’t require commission approval. The details are being sorted out, officials said.