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Lexington County Fire Service dedicates new training center, honors its namesake

Facility will train “Generations” of firefighters from Lexington County and other areas

Lexington, SC (James Bowers) – Thursday, dignitaries, honored guests, fire service officials, and even the wife of the Late Lexington County Chief Training Officer Frank Ballentine, gathered to officially open and dedicate the Lexington County Fire Service’s new, state-of-the-art training facility just west of the town of Lexington. The facility is named after Ballentine who was the first official chief of training after the organization of the county-wide fire service.

As Lexington County Council Chairman Todd Cullum put it, most motorists who travel down Ballpark Road in Lexington will be unaware of the training center’s existence. It’s actually tucked away in a location behind several other county buildings, and doesn’t stand out as county workers go in and out of the various facilities located in a quarter mile or more of county properties. That said, anyone who lives, works, or visits Lexington County could have their life saved because of its presence.

The county’s fire service will use the facility to teach area firefighters the ins and outs of their job. Here, they will learn everything from proper fire extinguishing, to search and rescue.

The complex boasts a brand-new training tower, which enables firemen to practice for situations involving high-rise structures such as a fire or some other emergency at building like the Lexington Medical Center or the county’s own main administration building on South Lake Drive. From that tower, LCFS members put on a “repel demonstration” to showcase just one of its capability.

Another newly-built addition to the training facility is the burn building. The building allows the instructors to simulate structure fires of several different types. Thisgives trainees the ability to learn a myriad of skills such as rescuing entrapped victims, “buddy breathing”, and how to escape their own entrapments under live fire conditions. The burn building features attributes such as temperature regulation, which teaches fire and rescue personnel how to react and respond appropriately under excessive heatconditions.

That building also feature several objects that firefighters will encounter in the field, so they can be taught how to respond. There are all types of object that you would encounter in a home that are commonplace, but can become a hazard when a building is on fire. Lexington County Fire Chief Brad Cox praised the burn building as a tool to teach firemen crucial tactics in a safe environment. “You can make mistakes here that don’t involve someone’s life,” Cox said, stressing the importance of the burn building. “Firemen are less likely to get hurt here than in the field.” Cox joked that firefighters will, “learn to hate,” the burn building. He said that they spent a great deal of time training in that building, and that can eventually make them dread heading to it for another scenario, but that next scenario may be the one that saves their lives.

The state of the art structure was constructed at a cost of $2 million. Cox expressed his excitement for “generations” of firemen from Lexington County and neighboring communities that will train with the new facility.

Lexington County’s Training center will educate both rookie and veteran firefighters. One of the most important types of training the complex will host is multi-company drills. These enable LCFS firefighters from different departments to work together, learning how to become a cohesive team. Cox said that all Lexington County fire stations feature some differences in the special skills and services, as well as special tools and equipment, making the multi-company drills a crucial part of education. Each team learns to work together and use those special skills and equipment for the good of all.

The upgraded training facility is an excellent and excitingaddition to Lexington County’s public safety infrastructure, and one that county officials are very proud of. The Lexington County Council celebrated the facility with a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday morning. Several public officials such as Lexington County Administrator Joe Mergo were present for the event. Chief Cox and Mergo took time to recognize the organized county fire service’s first ever training officer, the late Frank Ballentine, and his contributions to public safety. “It (the new facility) serves a tremendous function in saving lives,” County Council Chairman Todd Cullum said. “We are very fortunate to be able to fund this tremendous asset and put it in place.”

Cullum said that LCFS hires around 15 to 18 new fire and rescue personnel each year, and expects the number to stay the same. The county’s planned public safety upgrades are largely complete, with a few exceptions that are on the drawing board, after a six-year period of implementation. Futures changes will be decided in a budget meeting around the first of the year. Cullum calls the Lexington County Fire Service “top-notch”. “Our people and facilities are second to none,” Cullum said.

The Lexington County Training Center is located near 436 Ball Park Road in Lexington, close to the county’s other public safety headquarters. The small street leading visitors from Ball Park Road to the facility is known as “Jeff Chavis Circle.” It was named in honor of Lexington County firefighter Jeffery V. Chavis, who lost his life in the line of duty in 2001.

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