Ground is being prepared for the future location of a fire training facility in Fairfield. The site is by Lawrence High School in Fairfield. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

FAIRFIELD — After a statewide effort to expand the locations to train firefighters, central Maine is closing in on construction of a new fire training facility.

“It’s exciting to see the dirt getting moved and the site being prepared and knowing they will be here in November to start construction,” said Fairfield Fire Chief Duane Bickford. “It has been a long haul, but it will be worth it in the end.”

The facility will provide a training space for not only the Fairfield Fire Department but other departments in the area too, said Fairfield Town Manager Michelle Flewelling.

The structure itself will be fairly simple, a two-story building with a four-story tower and a burn room — about 1,248 square feet in total. There won’t be much inside, just a simple open space for departments to utilize however is best for them, officials said.

It will be located off of Industrial Drive in Fairfield, on the newly named Flashover Drive, behind the high school track. There have been conversations about building a classroom building on the property as well, Flewelling said, but that has not been finalized.

The public works department has been getting the site ready for construction — removing the existing clay and installing filter fabrics and base gravel.

Construction will be done by J.Reed Constructors, which was chosen through a bidding process by the state. The plan is to get work started this fall.

Conversations about a need for a facility like this have been discussed for years, Flewelling said. Most of the training facilities for firefighters are located in the southern part of the state, which makes it difficult for departments in the rest of Maine to travel for training.

“We can’t get that good hands-on realistic training that the fire service really needs,” Bickford said.

Fairfield Fire Chief Duane Bickford, left center, speaks with a property owner May 11, 2019, as firefighters put out the remaining flames of a fire that destroyed a workshop in Fairfield. A site for a new firefighting training facility is being prepped in Fairfield. Construction is expected to start in fall. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel file

There has been a conscious effort to create training opportunities across the state.

“The process was to try to make sure that these training facilities were equally spaced throughout the state, because it used to be that the only way for firefighters to get training was to (go to) the Bangor/Brewer area or the southern part of the state,” Flewelling said.

The total cost for the facility comes out to about $551,000, but most of the money will come from grants. The town received a grant for $427,907 from the Maine Fire Protection Services Commission, through the Maine Fire Service Institute, a department of Southern Maine Community College.

The town will also receive $150,000 from the Somerset County Commissioners to go toward the project.

Once the facility is operational, Fairfield will create long-term use agreements with other municipalities. For communities’ annual payments, Fairfield will guarantee a certain amount of training.

The details of those agreements and other administrative details haven’t been fully worked out yet, Flewelling said, and will likely be a matter of assessing the needs and figuring out the best methods as things come up.

“Its goal has always been to create this entity, and to know that it didn’t increase taxpayer dollars, and it will be a revenue generating entity,” Flewelling said. “So we’ll need to assess whether or not, with the revenue that it generates, will it pay for clerical support.”

The space could even be used for trainings for other departments, not just fire.

“There’s training that can be done from public works to police to fire to construction entities — it has a wealth of opportunity,” Flewelling said. “So it’s not just a building in which we can set stuff on fire.”

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