In an effort to get better each day, the South Walton Fire District will open a new four-story training facility and fleet-maintenance building in spring 2019.

The additions, which will be located behind the station, will give SWFD an area to store their vehicles and offer firefighters live-action training.

 

"When you see it on paper, you can't really judge the scope of it until you stand underneath it and see the room that we're going to have and the options we'll have for training," said Marc Anderson, the assistant chief of support services.

Each story of the tower will feature a different room with a different set-up.

It's important that SWFD to have a diverse facility, according to Anderson, so, whenever firefighters become accustom to one style of training, they'll have the resources to switch it up.

A chimney-styled fire place was installed alongside the building, allowing the rooms to be filled with smoke, eliminating visibility and making training for the nearly 100 firefighters on staff even more realistic.

According to Anderson, the tower will cost around $700,000, with the maintenance fleet coming in at about $6.6 million.

He said the much-needed facility was being financed through impact fees and has been in the works for a decade.

With the next nearest training facility around 30 miles away — Gulf Coast State College and Northwest Florida State College — South Walton firefighters haven't been able to train to the capacity that Anderson said they'd like to.

"It will probably be a daily thing," said Sgt. Matthew Cramer when asked how often he and his squad plan on using the new facility. "We can (practice) our technical rescues, rope rescues, structural collapses ... the type of training we can do is endless."

Anderson said he expects construction to be complete in the spring of 2019 and looks forward to utilizing the fire district's 10-acre property to the fullest.

"We have some extraordinary people that work for us that do extraordinary things," he said. "We don't just say the words, we walk the walk."