New structure for training

Newton Fire Department’s new training trailer is a lot more than a box with fake smoke.

The $120,000 structure has a repelling wall, roof-pitch simulators, moveable breech walls, a maze and a burn room that heats up to more than 1,000 degrees, among other features.

“There are so many things you can do,” said Newton Fire Chief Kevin Yoder.

The trailer is set up and ready for use in the old A&P parking lot behind First United Methodist Church in Newton. It is a structure mostly funded through federal dollars and one that Yoder said will provide essential training that used to be hard to come by.

“We would do this training before when we could acquire an old structure. We would always have to wait until we got those houses that were like commodities and few and far between,” Yoder said. “With this training trailer, this is something that we have access to 24/7, 365.”

Combined with rescue dummies, a generator and a small smoke machine, the trailer cost about $124,000. The federal government paid for about 90 percent of the trailer through a FEMA Assistance to Firefighters grant, dishing out about $111,600 for the structure. The city of Newton made up the rest of the cost, paying about $12,400.

“It’s a grant we generally apply for every year,” Yoder said, adding that past grant funding has paid for air packs for firefighters and educational tools like the department’s fire prevention trailer. “This is completely for our firefighters.”

The trailer is mobile, but will be permanently located behind First United Methodist Church.

A unique aspect of the trailer is a pipe system that carries toxic-free smoke throughout the structure. Yoder said the smoke is 90 percent man-made and safe.

“It does give us the ability to obscure the vision for the firefighters to portray a real situation,” he said.

The trailer sits a street away from businesses in downtown Newton. Yoder doesn’t think the smoke will affect the area.

“I don’t anticipate it causing any problems,” he said. “Any smoke from this trailer will be no more noticeable than a fireplace or wood stove in the downtown area as well.”

The fire department has done six training burns already, and there have been no complaints from area businesses, said Alan Fox, a Newton firefighter and training officer.