La Crosse, Holmen fire departments unveil new safety training simulator

Local News

HOLMEN, Wis. (WEAU/WLAX) – There’s a new way for the La Crosse and Holmen Fire Departments to teach the Coulee Region about fire safety.

Community Risk Educator with the La Crosse Fire Department Pat Corran said after an old training simulator ran its course, the LCFD wanted to find a new way to offer greater fire safety information.

“For years now, the La Crosse Fire Department has had a fire safety house, where we were able to teach learners how to safely evacuate a building,” Corran detailed. “About a year-and-a-half ago, it started reaching the length of its life, and it ended up breaking down.”

“We were looking at some of these newer products that were coming online that offered more things than just how to escape, like cooking safety, and some other things that go along with it,” Corran added.

Community donations and a Fire Prevention and Safety grant from FEMA funded the purchase of an estimated $128,000 fire safety simulator from JHB Group.

The LCFD was able to receive the grant by partnering with the Holmen Area Fire Department on the project, the first step towards an eventual working agreement between the two organizations.

“These partnerships pay off in things like this, it’s a broader group of people working towards common goals,” La Crosse and Holmen Fire Chief Ken Gilliam said.

The simulator offers safety tips for a variety of different situations, and Corran hopes the new training methods will leave an impression on learners.

“The idea is if you can immerse someone in a situation that seems like it’s as real as possible, comprehension is gained a little bit more than if you just say hey, make sure you sleep with your bedroom door closed,” Corran explained.

Gilliam believes the simulator represents what the working relationship between La Crosse and Holmen can achieve, but there’s still more to be done.

“We have a list of project needs right now, and we’re already starting to effort some grants and some alternative funding strategies on everything from fire hydrants that aren’t the same threads, to radios that aren’t on the same channels,” Gilliam detailed. “We’ll definitely be reaching out to the community and those regional partners that help fund those types of things.”

Corran says there are plans to hold a few training sessions this year, before taking the simulator around the Coulee Region in 2022.

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