NWFSC set to build fire training tower

Nathan Cobb
Walton Sun

DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — A local college will soon take strides in a project to expand its educational opportunities.

Set to break ground sometime this spring is the construction of a fire training tower on Triple G Road, which will be a part of Northwest Florida State College’s plan to offer more courses for industry-recognized certifications.

“The new fire tower allows (NWFSC) to work in conjunction with the Walton County Fire Rescue ... to provide trained students to fill open firefighter positions, provide training for existing firefighters within Walton County fire departments and provide a space for fire departments from other counties to participate in fire training,” Michael Erny, dean of advanced technology, business and engineering, wrote in an email.

The four-story, 40-foot tower will feature two burn rooms, a flat and gable roof, a 30-foot fire escape and rappelling anchors. It will sit on a portion of land donated to the school by the county.

Erny, who said construction would begin this spring, expected the tower to be operational by fall.

“Students will use this tower as part of the firefighting certificate program to gain the required experience and skills needed to pass the state tests for firefighters,” he added. “The school will be improved by the new fire tower as a way to work and support local needs by delivering outstanding educational programs that are relevant, accessible and engaging for students.”

According to Erny, the tower is part of the Walton Works Project, which will establish the Walton Works Training Center of Excellence at the college’s Chautauqua Center in DeFuniak Springs.

“The college will reconfigure some of the classroom space into a skills lab in one of the existing buildings,” he said, adding that a new “industrial trade building with a drone arena” would also be built.

Grants for the Walton Works Project include $1.5 million from the county and more than $2.7 million from Triumph Gulf Coast. NWFSC will also fund more than $1.4 million.

Additional courses will take on fields including cybersecurity, law enforcement and industrial trade programs.

"The project provides Walton County residents access to relevant training opportunities that are responsive to job demands and create a path toward higher educational attainment and careers,“ he said. ”Many programs will be operational by the fall of 2020 with additional programs starting by the spring of 2021.“