Cherokee County firefighters will no longer have to travel outside the county to receive the necessary training to provide adequate fire protection to residents.
Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services on Tuesday opened its new Training Center in Holly Springs.
Situated on 14.29 acres at the former Pike's Nursery site at 3985 Holly Springs Parkway, the facility is complete with a concrete, live fire structure; a multi-story concrete training tower; an apparatus classroom containing showers, fitness room and a small medical room.
Also on the property is a small pond the agency can use to gather water for training.
The grand opening, which also featured a ribbon cutting held by the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, included recognition of former former and current chiefs and firefighters of the agency.
Former Cherokee County Fire Chief Ray Gunnin, who currently serves as the Cherokee County District 2 commissioner, recounted a story he experienced while serving as chief.
Three of his personnel were treated at Grady Health Center's Burn Unit from injuries they sustained in fighting a blaze. After saving the family, the firefighters told and told Gunnin that if it weren't for the training they'd received, they would not have been able to get out of the home alive.
"The facility here, no matter what it costs (and) no matter what people may say about it, is worth every penny that was spent on it if we can save one person's life in this fire department," the former fire chief added.
The county commission in September 2012 awarded a contract to CABLIK Enterprises LLC to build the facility for $3 million.
Current Fire Chief Tim Prather referenced the opening as "probably one of the greatest days of my career in Cherokee County" and that of fire services in the county.
Up until last month, Prather said firefighters had to travel outside the county. Now, they can get the skills needed to become better personnel right in their backyards.
The fire chief thanked Cherokee County Manager Jerry Cooper and Cherokee County commissioners for their support in securing funding and transforming the complex from a dream into a reality.
The agency has aready put the training center to use. Since Nov. 1, the agency has logged 3,800 training hours inside the center, said Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Robinson. The reason the county is working so hard, Robinson added, is the county has an Insurance Service Office evaluation this month, and would like to earn extra points.
Those additional points could result in the county improving its split ISO rating of 5/9, which could spell a reduction in homeowners' insurance costs.
"I'm really proud of this facility and I'm even more proud of the men and women of Cherokee County fire department who now have an opportunity to train at this facility," he added.
The facility is another feather in the cap of Cherokee County, noted Commission Chair Buzz Ahrens. Along with the expected draw of other agencies across the state, Ahrens said the facility could also put the county's public safety organizations on the national stage.