New Carbondale fire training building a ‘game changer’ for firefighter preparedness |

New Carbondale fire training building a ‘game changer’ for firefighter preparedness

Grand opening slated for Saturday

Think of the biggest gas barbecue grill you can imagine with just one setting: diablo.

That pretty much describes the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District’s new firefighter training building.

From the street, the building on Carbondale’s Meadowood Drive looks like a hodge-podge of main street-style store and restaurant fronts, a few upstairs apartments and a larger, single-family type residence on one end.

The other end features a large bay area with a garage door similar to a mechanics shop. There’s also a basement space beneath with multiple ingress/egress points, a three-story stairwell, and a long interior hallway through the middle of the top floor.

A series of multi-level exterior balconies, platforms and rooftops can also be used for different rescue and rappelling exercises.

Inside the concrete block and slab structure, the walls and ceilings are made of thick, thermal-lined fireproof corrugated stainless steel panels with movable walls and various furniture props.

Rooms are equipped with large gas burners that, when ignited, can be used to simulate different types of fire situations.

“It’s like a Weber grill on steroids,” quipped Frank Nadell, deputy chief and training coordinator for the fire district. “It’s really just a disaster building, where we’re creating disaster after disaster, every day.”

Outside the building, additional gas-fed props will mimic a propane tank or automobile fire, to name a few more possible firefighting encounters.

A paved, 50-foot-wide street running in front of the building is intended to replicate a typical two-lane main arterial street, where fire apparatus could have to make maneuvers.

It’s all intended to train firefighters — not just from the Carbondale fire department, but from around the region and across the country — in a variety of different fire scenarios.

“It can be whatever we want it to be,” Nadell added. “And it really changes everything for the people who are out there putting out fires and who need to be properly trained.”

Following several months of construction, the training building is ready to show off to the public at a grand opening celebration from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday.

A full slate of both local and multi-agency training seminars and sessions will follow, as the facility gets put to use.

If you go…

Who: Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District

What: Firefighter Training Building Grand Opening

When: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Next to the CRFPD headquarters, 301 Meadowood Drive, Carbondale

Building tours, fire scenario demonstrations, food, games and more.

The training building has involved more than 15 years of dreaming, designing and finger-crossing to become a reality, Nadell said.

Inside the main headquarters building, which itself is equipped with multiple training classrooms, Nadell runs back to his office and emerges with a small paper scale model of the training building dating back to 2005. That’s when the former Smith Ranch was parceled off for the fire department expansion, the new Roaring Fork High School and what eventually became the town’s North Face Park.

For an interim period of time, the land was owned by global outdoor gear company The North Face, which had planned in the early 2000s to move its corporate headquarters from San Francisco to Carbondale.

When that deal fell through, instead of a large housing development that was also on the table for a short time, the land went into public ownership.

The facility, which cost about $2 million to build, finally became a reality thanks to local voter approval of a bond issue and mill levy increase in 2018.

“We actually had this all drawn out way back then as part of our vision to become a regional training facility and an asset to the larger firefighting community,” Nadell said.

Smaller firefighter training buildings exist in the region, including one in Rifle that’s operated by the Colorado River Fire Rescue district.

The multi-agency Garfield County Training Consortium also facilitates a variety of joint training exercises, such as for swiftwater rescues and wildland firefighting.

The new Carbondale fire training building enhances those efforts, and can be used on a broader scale for interagency training through organizations like the National Firefighting Academy.

“This is a 50- to 100-year investment, and the more we use the facility, the more it can evolve,” Nadell said.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or

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