New CVTC building provides new training opportunities for firefighting students

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- "When I showed up I had no idea if I would like firefighting," said Brian Best, a firefighting student at Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire.

He is a firefighter in training and one day hopes to be on the front lines, fighting fires full-time.

"Once you go into the first live burn you love it," he said.

CVTC's new Fire Safety Center will help give him that hands-on experience.

The public got a first look at it on Thursday and even got to try out some of the firefighting gear.

It is only one of four facilities of its kind in the world and opens up new training opportunities.

Facility Manager Kim Nessel showed us how it will help students learn to fight flammable liquid fires.

He says in the new training room the heat can get up to 2000 degrees.

Your average structure fire by comparison he says is about 300 to 500 degrees.

"The heat is incredible, I've fought fire my entire life and this is the most punishing type of fire there is to fight," Nessel said.

Skills like this can help set firefighters apart in a profession where there is low turnover in paid positions.

"When a new firefighter comes in it is generally because somebody else has retired," said Eau Claire Deputy Fire Chief Allyn Bertrang.

Eau Claire fire brought on 11 new firefighters last year - usually they hire an average of three per year.

Nessel says Chippewa Falls and Menomonie also pay full-time firefighters. Altoona he says pays for on-call work.

Nessel says firefighting students also have other options outside of community firefighting.

"There are a lot of private firefighters, there are industrial firefighters that do testing on larger and smaller scale; NASA has firefighters, there are firefighters in the military," he added.

He says many students here will join and work with volunteer departments. Best is already doing that when he is back home up north and has his eyes set on making firefighting a full-time job when he graduates in 1.5 years.

"It's adrenaline, you're not stuck in an office, you might not do anything one day or might have a pretty cool fire to go to, something different everyday," he said.

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