Dirt is piled high around the Nikiski Fire Station No. 2 where a Soldotna-based construction company is working to remove and level several tons of earth to create a training space for area firefighters.
The current training ground, a group of charred Conex buildings behind the station, will soon be set atop a training pad that will give firefighters space to practice maneuvering their equipment, set up hoses and work with the large volumes of water needed to douse a fire.
The training grounds will be a 200-foot by 200-foot pad built from gravel that already exists on the site, according to the borough contract. North Star Paving & Construction bid the project at $99,980 and Kenai Peninsula Borough Project Manager Robin Davis said it was on track to meet that cost.
For Nikiski Fire Chief James Baisden, the new training pad will help him keep his 40-50 active firefighters alert and well-trained in dangerous situations.
“One of the things that every department struggles with is these trainings because we have all of these requirements that we’re trying stay proficient with,” he said. “We’re trying to get live fire training and then also have a controlled environment where we can safely do it.”
Baisden said building the training pad behind the fire station would save on costs and make it more convenient to train the whole crew at once.
“Whenever we’re training, we also have to be response ready,” he said. “Instead of staffing to cover the training, we can do (the training) on the evenings and weekends and still meet emergency needs.”
In addition to creating a training ground, North Star employees are also flattening a alder-covered hill that sits between the entrance of the fire station and a portion of the Kenai Spur Highway.
Baisden said firefighters have yet to have any “close calls” with incoming traffic, but needed to see around the blind corner.
“It’s a highway. That traffic moves fast. It’s busy there when school’s out and just being able to look down the highway and having a clear view is important,” Baisden said.
If construction continues on schedule, North Star owner Jack Foster said his three-person crew should be done in ten days.
“I think we’re probably ahead of schedule,” he said. “There have been some shortcuts that we’ve been able to make as far as utility lines … just little things like that have helped out.”
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