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Four-story fire training tower to be built thanks to grant

The Timken Foundation of Canton, Ohio, has approved a $166,000 grant to build a four-story fire training tower in Sylvania.

The Sylvania City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday night to accept the foundation’s stipulations for the money – that all of the money go toward building the fire tower; that if the money is not used for the tower, it be returned to the foundation; and that the city provide a written report when the structure is finished.

The foundation will make the money available in September. The grant money would pay for the pre-fabricated tower.

Completing the project would require such things as land acquisition, site preparation, foundation work and assembly work, said Gary Weaver, Sylvania police and fire chief. The value of the things needed to complete the project is an estimated $165,000, he said.

But finishing the project would cost much less than that because the city already owns the land where it would be built -- the ball field near Cail Community Center. And firefighters and volunteers would do much of the prep work and construction, Weaver said.

“In real dollars, it would not be that much,” he said.

The four-story tower would include simulated residential and commercial spaces, as well as a “burn room” in which fires would be set and a maze. Firefighters also could learn- how to extinguish attic fires, Weaver said.

Sylvania’s 25 firefighters would use the facility as would firefighters from a number of nearby departments that have mutual aid agreements with the city, including Screven County, he said.

Having a local training structure would save time firefighters currently spend traveling to the state training facility in Forsyth, Ga. – a nearly three-hour drive each way.

“We’re surprised and excited about this opportunity for us and for our area,” Weaver said. Visiting firefighters who come to Sylvania for training will bring money to area businesses, including gas stations, restaurants and motels, he said.

The earliest the tower could be finished would be early next year, Weaver said.

Even after the tower is finished, the department still will burn donated houses such as the one it burned in Sylvania two weeks ago, Weaver said. “An acquired structure is unpredictable,” he said. “This is more of a controlled setting. It can be safer.”