BENTONVILLE --The public is invited to a grand opening of the city's Fire Department training center at 11 a.m. Wednesday, said Debbie Griffin, city director of administration.
Live fire demonstrations are planned at the event, she said.
The training center is on a little more than two acres on Southwest Aviation Drive next to the Public Works and Maintenance building. The Bentonville Municipal Airport is across the street.
The $3.9 million fire training center was part of the city's $266 million bond plan for capital projects and bond refinancing voters approved in April 2021. The city will pay for the bonds by extending a 1-cent sales tax originally approved in 2003.
Media members toured the site last week and were able to put on firefighting gear and follow city firefighters through several training scenarios inside the building.
The 7,860-square-foot, multistory fire training/burn building will increase firefighter safety during training, provide training flexibility and consistency, meet regulatory standards and reduce environmental impact, according to the city. The facility also will provide the ability to train personnel on high-risk, low-frequency events.
Smoke is generated using a theatrical smoke system that's Environmental Protection Agency-compliant with no harmful effects to the environment or firefighters, according to the city.
"The training tower will provide us with an unprecedented amount of flexibility for training in environments that we have never had consistently before," Fire Chief Justin Scantlin said in April. "It also greatly improves company level training due to the repeatability that it offers. In the past, when we had acquired structures to burn, it only provided a limited number of opportunities. These usually had to be reserved for the newest members of the department."
Work continues on the new Police Department training center that also was approved as part of the bond issue. It will be approximately 10,000 square feet. The cost is $1.65 million. The facility is on 20 acres near the Bentonville armory, just off Regional Airport Road.
All dirt work is complete, berms are built and concrete is ready to be poured. A tentative opening is set for this summer, Police Chief Ray Shastid said.
The police training facility will include an outdoor range, a K-9 training area and a training building used to house range equipment. It also will be used as a bomb squad/special response team training area. The bomb squad covers Northwest Arkansas and into Missouri.
Officers already are using the VirTra V-300, which helps prepare officers for real-life incidents. Each real-world, deescalation and judgmental use of force training simulator has realistic scenarios that provide an in-depth look into human performance. This will allow officers to use all tools available during simulation, which may be limited or impossible to duplicate on just a live-fire range, according to the city.
The cost was $233,377. VirTra is based in Tempe, Ariz. The simulator will remain at the police station on Southeast 14th Street, Shastid said.