KINGSPORT — Work on Kingsport’s new fire training grounds has been a slow process during the past year, and in recent months the project has essentially been at a standstill as heavy rains through the summer have caused standing water and soft ground at the site.
However, the $500,000 project is starting to move forward. The city of Kingsport last week advertised an invitation to bid for some preliminary work on the property, including clearing and grubbing, grading, fencing and utilities. Bids are scheduled for submission next week.
The location for Kingsport’s new fire training grounds is off Wilcox Drive adjacent to the existing Eastman Fire Training Center on Horse Creek Road and across the street from the new MeadowView golf maintenance facility. Kingsport began leasing the property from Eastman more than a year ago.
The old fire training grounds were located on Industry Drive near the Kingsport Greenbelt — a tower built with donated funds and materials, a portable classroom and another small trailer with some props for fire training exercises.
“We always wanted something a little bit better,” said Fire Chief Craig Dye. “A real burn building, one, two or three stories high, depending on what you need. And something safer to use, to do fires or just smoke, plus there are other props that we need.”
The new facility is expected to include a burn building — a metal building with props and windows to allow firefighters to work with ladders and hoses and replicate a house fire, building fire or a roof ventilation. The site will have a concrete pad for vehicles to simulate a car wreck, where crews can perform extrications.
Dye said the training grounds would also have a classroom and props to simulate a collapsed garage or a hazardous materials spill.
“Anything we do, we should be able to incorporate into the training grounds,” Dye said. “It’ll be the only one like it this side of Knoxville.”
The Kingsport Fire Department is now in charge of the Northeast Tennessee rookie school, taking over the lead from the Johnson City Fire Department. The school is done twice a year and will be held at Kingsport’s new training grounds once complete.
Dye said outside agencies will also take advantage of the new facility, such as the regional hazmat team and rescue team, and perhaps, in the future, the site could offer days for volunteer fire departments.
The idea of relocating and expanding the fire training grounds came out of the belief that the Industry Drive property would be a better fit with the nearby Kingsport Landing project, given that the city extended the Greenbelt and created a greenspace in the vicinity.
In April, the city’s Public Works Department removed the structures and equipment from the Industry Drive site and have been using it as a lay-down yard. Work on the new facility was already expected to begin, but the project has been hit with some delays — the relocation of some power lines, the removal of some trees and heavy rains this summer resulting in standing water and soft ground on the site.