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WCCC public safety center dedicated

Paul Peirce
| Friday, May 11, 2012, 12:57 a.m.

Westmoreland County Community College's new $8 million, state-of-the-art public safety training center was lauded Friday as among the best in the nation.

"You can probably say there's not another building in the country that will give firefighters so many looks and feels," said David Hauger, the college's coordinator of emergency services programs.

Firefighters can practice fighting blazes in industrial, warehouse, residential, or multi-story hotel settings or rescues in backdrops as diverse as an elevator shaft with four types of simulated door assemblies providing for vertical and horizontal rescues, Hauger said.

The six-story training tower, commonly known as a burn building, is the integral part of the center that was dedicated yesterday in South Huntingdon Township. It is designed to simulate a variety of fires in industrial, commercial and residential building settings. The 14,000-square-foot building is among the 10 largest in the United States and includes an attached 2-1/2-story residential structure.

Both the tower and residential building are equipped with gas-fired furnaces that can be remotely controlled by the instructor. The structure also is outfitted with sensors that will determine if the correct amount of water is being applied to extinguish the fire.

For safety, Hauger noted the training tower's design gives the instructor complete control of the fire scenario. With a remote control, the instructor can close off all gas valves and activate the forced-air ventilation system to rapidly remove smoke and heat.

The tower also features a 1,200-square-foot reconfigurable smoke maze, balconies for ladder and rope rescues, internal and external loading docks, and an overhead jib crane for moving heavy objects between floors.

The 4,500-square-foot brick classroom building, fashioned architecturally as a fire house, houses a classroom, a truck bay that will double as a second classroom, and an office area. The building has been designed to allow for future expansion without interrupting training sessions.

College President Daniel C. Krezenski said the center was discussed for more than 25 years. He said the college is hopeful that it will attract emergency responders from throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

"We are pleased that phase one of our Public Safety Training Center will provide much-needed, premier training opportunities for the region's emergency responders. And, as only 30 acres of the 160-acre site have been developed, we look forward to proceeding with the future development of this project," Krezenski said.

Future projects include "Hogan's Alley," a tactical village of shooting-range targets, indoor and outdoor firing ranges, a public safety response station, simulated trucking and railroad hazards, and emergency vehicle operator course, a maintenance/vehicle storage building, classroom building expansion and a physical fitness trail.

Among those attending the dedication ceremony yesterday were Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll; U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, a Republican from Upper St. Clair, Allegheny County; state Sen. Allen Kukovich, a Manor Democrat; state House members Ted Harhai, of Monessen, and Tom Tangretti, of Hempfield Township, both Democrats, and Jess Stairs, of Acme, a Republican; county Commissioners Tom Balya and Tom Ceraso; William Ruth, western area supervisor for the state fire academy; Richard Rupert of the Public Safety Training Center Advisory Committee, and members of the college board of trustees.

The college will hold an open house at the center from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 19. The event, which is free and open to the public, will include self-guided tours.

Hauger noted the college is still completing a few odds and ends on the center, so classes will not begin there until later this fall.

The center is located off Reduction Road in South Huntingdon Township, near the Smithton exit of Interstate 70.

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