CINCINNATI — After years of planning, the City of Cincinnati is breaking ground on a new $13.623 million firefighting complex that officials hope will provide more efficient and centralized training resources for firefighters and paramedics.
What you need to know
- A new Cincinnati Fire Department campus is coming to Southern Vermont
- The city plans to build a $13.6 million project over the next two years on Millcreek Road
- CFD currently has three spread-out and inactive sites in operation, according to a fire union representative
- Officials hope the project will be completed by late 2024
On Wednesday, City Manager Sheryl Long and Fire Chief Michael Washington participated in a ceremony at the Cincinnati Fire Department’s Basic Fire Training Center at 3200 Melcreek Road in South Vermount.
As part of this project, the city will integrate the training center with two other fire training facilities. The city has a so-called ‘College of Fire’ training site on Lane and Liberty Streets in the West End and office space across City Hall where they focus on administrative tasks and EMS skills.
The new campus in Melcreek Road will include an administration and teaching building and a training tower where firefighters and recruits can practice tactical skills, such as active burn suppression.
“(Cincinnati Fire Department firefighters) are literally running into burning buildings, putting their own health and safety on the line, to save others,” Long said. “It is my responsibility to ensure that firefighters in these rapidly evolving situations are equipped with the best training.”
Founded in 1853, the Cincinnati Fire Department was the first fully paid, professional fire department in the United States.
Today, CFD operates 26 fire stations across the city. Operations include a mix of engine companies, ladder companies, heavy rescue and medical units. The department also provides response coverage of 25 miles of Ohio River shoreline.
Once completed in 2024, Long said, the new campus will contain a tall building. It is a massive, climate-controlled structure intended to allow firefighters and recruits to train in all areas of fire and rescue year-round.
Firefighter recruits participate in the 18 weeks prior to graduation from the academy. After taking the oath in full, they will continue with regular training throughout their careers. The department currently has 803 firefighters and 52 enlisted men, per city data.
“Proper training equips CFD personnel and recruits to respond in every situation,” Washington said. “This expanded campus will allow us to train in a way that ensures we get it right every time.”
Matt Alter, president of the Cincinnati Fire Fighters Union Local 48, stressed that this project “is taking a long time to build.”
Alter said there had been calls for a consolidated training campus for more than 20 years, long before he joined the force in December 2004. He called the new training complex the “largest investment in fire training” by the city since President Franklin Roosevelt was in the White House. In the 30-40s of the last century.
“Things are starting to bear fruit. We look forward to getting it started,” said Alter, who has championed funding for this project since 2017.
Alter believes that locating training resources in one location will save “tens of thousands of lost productivity hours” by making operations more efficient and getting things “under one roof.”
“I just mean some auxiliary things that you don’t even think about when you have multiple sites,” he added. “Each site should have its own chairs, computers, classrooms and its own tools. This will reduce overhead costs and increase the efficiency of the use of taxpayers’ money.”
Southwest Ohio-based Megen Construction and MSA Design are the design and construction team for the new facility. The city said Wednesday that the city expects construction to begin in the fall of 2023 with the campus ready for use by the end of 2024.
Although completion is still more than two years away, Alter is already referring to the project as “Phase One.” He hopes the city will continue to add new simulators and other tools down the road as they become available.
“We look forward to working with our elected officials to get those dollars to build this thing in a way that’s long overdue,” Alter added.
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