City recorder and information coordinator Randy Sanders listens as Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner speaks during city council's April 7, 2022 meeting. / File photo by Katie Kuba

City, county partnering on proposed live fire training facility

BUCKHANNON – The city and county are teaming up on a project that could potentially save some Upshur County residents hundreds – possibly even thousands – of dollars on their homeowner’s insurance.

At Buckhannon City Council’s most recent meeting April 21, mayor Robbie Skinner announced the Upshur County Commission had agreed to contribute $60,000 of its American Rescue Plan funding toward a proposed live fire training facility that city personnel have developed and plan to construct. Located across the road from the Street Department headquarters on Mud Lick Road, the future training facility will be built in a space formerly occupied by the Waste Department’s maintenance division (near the Lewis-Upshur Animal Control Facility).

Buckhannon mayor Robbie Skinner first announced the idea of a live fire training facility – complete with a newly fashioned ‘burn building’ – in his January 2022 State of the City address.

Since then, Buckhannon City Council has approved water line upgrades to the site, including the extension of a six-inch water main line and the installation of a fire hydrant on the north side of the second gate of the city’s waste facility. The only completely new structure needed on-site is a burn building where firefighters can practice putting out real flames.

City personnel say they want firefighters across the county to be able to access training at the proposed facility, so the Buckhannon Fire Department requested a contribution of $60,000 of the county’s ARPA funding. There’s not yet a final price tag on the project, city finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins said recently, but the water line upgrades alone are in excess of $30,000.

At the April 21 council meeting, Skinner said although the county had declined to split the cost of rehabilitating the Tennerton Water Storage Tank, he had some good news.

“Our fire department had requested $60,000 to help fund the new training facility that the city would like to build on the Mud Lick property,” Skinner reported. “The county commission agreed to and is supporting giving a check to the City of Buckhannon via the [Upshur County] Fire Board to give all of the departments in the county some ownership in this, so we were successful in working with them on that.”

On Monday Buckhannon fire chief JB Kimble said if the training center comes to fruition, that could significantly lower some residents’ ISO ratings, and hence, the cost of their homeowner’s insurance. That’s because many Upshur County residents would be within 15 miles of a live fire training facility.

“Having that there will free us up to put our spare fire engine out there [on Mud Lick Road], so the people on the western end of the county will go from a Class 10 to a Class 4 [ISO rating], which [the city] is now or even better,” he said. “That means significant savings on homeowner’s insurance.”

Buckhannon Fire Chief JB Kimble said city departments have collaborated to create a blueprint of the live fire training center.

“We already have the building drawn up,” he said. “We already have it designed to be positioned, and Jerry (Jerry Arnold, city public works director) already knows where to put the concrete. We’re just waiting to get the water line in and start.”

Kimble estimated the facility is 60-by-80 feet with bays, saying the old Waste maintenance garage space will house most of the facility. A new burn room will need to be fabricated, however.  

“Burn rooms are basically metal buildings, modified with double walls so you can burn in it and do training with ladders, hose advancements and those types of things,” he explained. “You can do basic and advanced trainings there. It’ll be a live fire with pallets and hay and hot inside just like a real fire.”

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