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Volunteers Pitch In To Repair Fire Department's "Burn Building"

Springfield’s Fire Department has come up with a plan to try to keep its current rating of “2” with the ISO, or Insurance Services Office. That’s a rating agency that assesses the nation's fire departments every ten years on their abilities to fight fires. Part of the new plan involves various donors giving their time and resources. KSMU's Jennifer Moore reports.

The ISO in November told the fire department that its rating would be lowered to “3” if the department didn’t improve its services.

Part of the action plan to improve those services is to restore the city’s so-called “burn building,” which is a facility where firefighters train.

The department didn’t want to spend much money revamping the building, especially since it’s expected to be replaced further down the road.

So, the city has instead called upon local companies and a labor union to volunteer their services:

Conco Companies has agreed to donate the rock, Regional Ready Mix the concrete, and Springfield Laborers Union Local 663 will provide the labor. Also, Hunter Chase & Associates will provide additional material and equipment, and Metropolitan Grill restaurant is contributing $5,000 for the building's special burn panels.

Earlier, I was joined on the phone by Fire Chief David Hall to talk about this solution.

"This was an issue that we were presenting to the City Council. And I was explaining about the ISO rating, and you know, one of the issues we had with the deficiencies in our live-fire burn building, and that it was no longer useable. And while I was giving the presentation, Councilman Scott Bailes leaned over to the city manager and said, 'I think that I can help with that.' And, you know, what he was referring to was he had contacts in the community in the construction industry," Hall said.

Those contacts, Hall said, agreed to pull together to improve the "burn building."

Hall said the "burn building" is a facility in northwest Springfield that allows firefighters to build and fight a live fire without having to gain experience by fighting a fire on someone's home.

The old building has been damaged over the years by the elements of water and heat, and needs repairs.

Hall said the ISO required five improvements: repairing the burn building, developing automatic aid agreements with Willard and Republic Fire Departments, purchasing small pieces of equipment, getting staffing levels back up, and moving a rescue company from one area to another, higher-call area.

Three out of five of those, he said, either have already been done or will be completed by the end of January. The burn building is expected to be repaired by the end of April, he said. As for staffing, Hall said he's hopeful that the fire department will be able to begin hiring in July, which would mean new recruits would be ready for work by the end of 2010.

In about six months, the ISO rating agency will determine if Springfield’s action plan steps are either implemented or well underway. It will then determine whether or not the fire department will maintain its ISO “2” rating for the next ten years.

The Springfield Fire Department is currently 17 positions short, due to a hiring freeze that has been in effect for over a year.

For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.