Charleston County center to prepare firefighters for real-life scenarios

Giving old shipping containers new life, the Awendaw-McClellanville Fire Department is completing an emergency services training center for firefighters to trai
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 4:05 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 1, 2023 at 5:27 AM EDT
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AWENDAW, S.C. (WCSC) - Giving old shipping containers new life, the Awendaw-McClellanville Fire Department is completing an emergency services training center for firefighters to train and perform drills safely.

Located behind fire station two, the center is two stories tall and includes four former shipping containers that were previously used by Dorchester County Fire Rescue and the City of Charleston Fire Department.

The site will not use any live fire, but smoke machines will be used to still stimulate the effects of a real fire.

Awendaw-McClellanville Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Mike Bowers says the training center will raise the level of preparation for firefighters in the rural fire department.

“They’ll have a practical place where they can come put those skills to use. Skills like forcing doors, throwing ladders, pulling a hose, wearing an air pack, just basic skills that if we don’t do every single day, they’re diminishing,” Bowers says. “Because of our limited manpower that we have because we are in a rural area, we count on our guys to know things, and they’ve got to just be well prepared.”

The facility will be mainly used for search and rescue operations, hose and nozzle tactics, ladder throwing and state classes, but can also be used for many real-life scenarios for firefighters to practice.

Before allowing the center to be ready for training, the department wants to make the area as realistic as possible by including furniture and having a layout similar to houses in the area.

“Before, if we didn’t have anything like this, we just had to pretend. Now, it will be more like a home and we’ll have obstacles in our way and all that stuff,” AMFD Engineer Jason Philbeck says. “It’ll be more like real life.”

The department hopes the training center will encourage more teamwork and communication between different crews and shifts that cover the Awendaw-McClellanville area.

“They will get to work together better and it will be more proficient, and just a better all-around firefighter,” Bowers adds. “For the volunteers to get the classes in, it’s very hard because to get everything you need to be a firefighter in the state of South Carolina, it takes a long time.”

Once the facility is finished, it will be at a near-zero cost to taxpayers in the area because the shipping containers are reused. The department hopes that the facility can be used for years to train firefighters in the safest way possible.