CRAWL KEY, FL – The grand opening ceremony for the new Joe London fire training classroom facility was held Wednesday during the lunchbreak of the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners monthly meeting.
The new $1.96 million, 5,000-square-foot building is part of the Joe London Fire Training Academy, located in the Middle Keys on remote Crawl Key, at mile marker 56.6 of the Overseas Highway.
“It’s a class facility,” Monroe County Fire Rescue Chief James Callahan said. “I feel very proud of it, and I feel very proud of the men and women we’ve hired and trained.”
The academy is one of Florida’s 43 certified training centers for firefighters. It is named after Joe London, the County’s Fire Marshal from 1984 to 2003.
After a ribbon cutting, Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi put on full gear to battle a blaze in one of the academy’s practice vehicles.The academy hosts a variety of courses throughout the year that are designed for Monroe County Fire Rescue firefighters, local volunteer firefighters and members of the Keys municipalities’ fire departments.
The new concrete building includes LED energy efficient lighting, a two-bay garage, men's and women's showers, an office and a classroom. The classroom training used to be conducted out of a doublewide officer trailer with a leaky roof and no hot water.
All required ISO (Insurance Service Office) facility training is conducted at the facility. It includes 18 hours of facility training, live fire training, vehicle extrication training and ground ladder training. Using the facility’s drill tower, firefighters drag hoses and flow water with heat and smoked out conditions. Search and rescue drills are conducted in blacked-out conditions. Training also includes practice ventilation techniques whether it be vertical, hydraulic, or positive and negative pressure.
It was funded with the one-cent infrastructure tax.
“All of this gives us the ability to practice under a controlled environment so that we can perform in the streets for the public in the real world,” said Charlie Mather, Monroe County Fire Rescue’s Training Chief.