When voters in the Shasta-Tehama-Trinity Joint Community College District approved Measure H in 2016, they had no inkling of the devastation that was to be unleashed by the Carr Fire two years later.
While the successful $139 million bond measure wasn’t able to aid firefighters or survivors of that historic wildfire, the facilities and renovations it is financing are likely to prove beneficial when the next big blaze threatens the north state.
The first improvements funded by the bond measure—a pair of fire training towers that make up Phase I of Shasta College’s Regional Public Safety Training Center—will be unveiled a 4 p.m. Wednesday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The center is located immediately to the left after accessing the north entrance to the campus.
“This is a huge step forward in the north states for fire training,” said Don Lacy, the interim director of fire technology and emergency medical services at the college. “We had been having difficulties with the minimum training required to be a firefighter and we’ve had to take students to other colleges to get that training. Now we have those facilities here at our college and students can learn everything they need here.”
With the new towers, students in Shasta College’s 18-week Firefighter Academy can learn how to perform victim searches, how to attack a structure fire and how to overhaul a building after a fire, according to college spokesman Peter Griggs.
The “fire tower” is equipped with gas-fired props that mimic a residential or commercial structure fire. The other tower has a rappelling wall to give students training for rescues on cliffs bordering the Sacramento River and other treacherous areas. Between the two, a variety of scenarios can be created to give students practical experience in dealing with real-world emergencies, Griggs said.
Bret Gouvea, chief of Calfire’s Shasta-Trinity Unit and ranking board member for SHIELD, a regional public safety training consortium, said the towers also will provide opportunities for other professional first responders to train on various rescue and response techniques.
“It takes all public safety organizations working together to mitigate a large-scale incident like the recent Carr Fire,” Gouvea said. “The Regional Public Safety Training Center gives us the mechanism to train for these events together.”
Joe Wyse, the superintendent and president of Shasta College, said the budget for the two towers was $2.5 million. The second phase of the public safety training center will be classroom building near the towers. That project has been submitted to the state architect’s office for design.
“This center and the partnerships it represents are just one more way that Shasta College is here to help train and prepare our first responders for the invaluable work they do for us all,” Wyse said. “We’re excited to open this first phase of our new fire training center and are thankful for the trust and belief our community had in us when they passed Measure H.”
Lacey, a former firefighter with the city of Redding, said a goal for the near-future will be to increase the height of the tower to accommodate training with the city’s ladder truck. As it is, “we have some of the finest instructors that teach from all the departments here plus some from Stockton, Sacramento and San Francisco.”
The public safety training center is the first of a number of planned renovations and buildings to be funded with Measure H proceeds, Wyse said. A veteran’s center for the Redding campus is out to bid as well as a combined student services and veterans center for the Tehama campus in Red Bluff.
Also in the works is a computer and information systems center on the Redding campus to help fill out the technical education quad and a 1.6-megawatt solar panel array on the east parking lot. When completed and linked with the existing 1-megawatt solar field, the Redding campus will be able to generate 80 percent of its energy needs, Wyse said.