“The best way to train firefighters is to create an environment that is reflective of what they will actually see on an emergency incident,” says Chandler, Ariz. (pop. 255,464) Fire Chief Tom Dwiggins. Completed in January 2017, the $4.08 million Chandler Fire, Health & Medical Department “Burn” Building at the Fire Training Center gives firefighters such an environment.  

Chandler’s rapid growth over the past few decades brought with it construction design, population density and building materials changes. Moreover, Chandler firefighters trained in parks or abandoned structures they found, but weren’t able to train with the crucial components of fire or smoke. 

The Chandler Burn Building idea materialized from a need to address these issues, and the city funded the structure mostly through voter-approved bonds. The 9,000-square-foot building’s contract was approved in January 2016, and a team of firefighters collaborated on the design of the Burn Building. 

The result is a multi-faceted structure that presents a distinct physical environment on each side that firefighters may encounter on the job: a “big box” retail store/warehouse, a strip mall, a single-family home and a multi-family residence. Remote-controlled gas-feeding props, high-temperature ceramic tiles and an advanced exhaust system ensure different live fire training scenarios without compromising safety. 

Since its completion, fire departments across Arizona have trained at the Burn Building, with about seven region-based fire departments that Chandler’s regularly trains with. Such uniform and joint trainings are especially valuable given the automatic aid agreements present in metro Phoenix fire departments, Dwiggins says.