Reporting Joel Thomas
FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – In 1965, the war in Vietnam was escalating, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law, and Fort Worth built its current Police and Fire Training Center.
Think about that. The location where our officers and firefighters train to keep you safe was built just after JFK was assassinated.
Needless to say, they’ve since outgrown it.
Officers on the shooting range have to use plastic bullets in their rifles. Real rifle rounds would penetrate the backdrop on the shooting range. When officers want to qualify with their rifles they have to go to Dallas.
“The outdoor range is so far outdated, that literally about ten to twenty percent of our recruits and officers that go for in-service training are hit with returning fragmentation of our rounds,” said Fort Worth Police Chief Jeff Halstead. “Its too outdated. Its too unsafe.”
Officers and firefighters are shoe-horned into the same gym and one group has to remove all of its training equipment before another can use the space. The men’s locker room is a narrow maze of lockers crammed into a space meant for a fraction of the number of cadets.
And outside, fire fighters haven’t been able to set a fire in the training facility for 20 years. The concrete building they used to engulf in flames so firefighters could practice attacking a fire is too unsafe. Officers have to use a nearby community college or Parker County’s training sight to get the experience fighting flames.
Tuesday, Fort Worth broke ground on a nearly $100 million, state-of-the art training center in south central Fort Worth off of West Felix Street.
Construction will use two, enormous surplus warehouses from the old Federal Depot already on the site. And there will be one million square feet of space.
It will feature a driving track surrounding the buildings for vehicle training, an indoor shooting range and areas to practice tactical assaults. The tactical assault area will allow police to reconfigure the lay out of walls to imitate homes, offices or schools to practice various scenarios.
The fire department will have structures where they can fight actual fires and practice rescues from high buildings and confined spaces as well as an area for water rescue training.
“Not only will we be able to provide them training, a lot of firefighters from around the country will be wanting to come here and train,” said Fort Worth Fire Department Chief Rudy Jackson.
“We will be the envy of the nation,” said Mayor Betsy Price.
The move will have to come quickly. The shooting range will have to be vacated by the end of 2013 for construction of a portion of the Trinity River Vision. Fort Worth hopes to have some of the training operation moved by late summer. Eventually, the Felix Street sight will also be home to a combined Police/Fire headquarters building. Part of the training center, in fact, will be funded by selling the city’s current police headquarters building downtown. The majority of the financing comes from the city’s sale of certificates of obligation.
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