Porterville Fire Department classroom gets hot upgrade

Fire department unveils remodeled classroom complex that offers new and better opportunities for training

PORTERVILLE – The Porterville Fire Department recently opened a remodeled classroom that is burning with possibilities for the future, while also solving some of the smoldering issues of the previous design.

The classroom complex includes completely new and updated technology to create a more seamless learning environment, according to the city. It also allows the department to form a base camp that can house other departments when responding to multi-jurisdiction emergencies.

Yuriko Velarde, administrative analyst with the City of Porterville, said the facility will not only improve educational opportunities for the fire department, but the classroom space will also be available to police and city staff for training.

The remodel was funded through Measure H, passed in 2005, which added a half-cent sales tax increase to raise funds for police and fire department projects. This is the first of three stations that will receive upgrades through Measure H funding. The total project cost was $545,000.

Velarde said one of the best aspects of the remodel was the improvements to electronics and technology. She said in the past, it was often difficult to accomplish simple tasks like setting up a computer to display on the monitor due to outdated technology.

“They upgraded the notification systems within the classroom so that if there is a fire, the lights flash and there is also an intercom, which there wasn’t before, so now the dispatchers can make calls out during classes so they don’t have to have their radios on,” Velarde said. “They did a test when we were out there and it was pretty neat.”

The renovations included the remodeling of the existing restrooms for accessibility, the construction of independent shower stalls and the creation of a break room/kitchen, while all of the data and networking cables and server rack were relocated and the fire alarm system was upgraded.

Another bit of tech that was upgraded was the monitor screen. The new system uses a four-panel monitor system that can be combined to provide one image, or each screen can be split out to display different images. This allows for an enhanced emergency response with a map on one screen and with video feeds on others, offering better response times and greater safety for fire fighting units who are responding to major disasters like wildfires.

The technology upgrades will also offer opportunities for cross-departmental collaboration. Velarde explained that through Leadership Porterville, a community-based leadership program that brings together individuals from city departments, the classroom will provide education on what being a firefighter is really like. 

“Through Leadership Porterville, they get first-hand experience of what it is like to be in a situation with the fire department or the police department,” Velarde said. “They do a live simulation where they have to respond to a fire incident to get experience to get what that is like.”

Once a year, Porterville Police and Fire units get together at the education center, which also educates agency staff on situations ranging from a structure fire to an active shooter incident response. Velarde said she participated in a fire suppression training in which she geared up in the fire fighting equipment and helped to put out a blaze.

She added that beyond the Leadership Porterville event, fire and police train regularly side-by-side and the upgraded classroom space will benefit both, in turn offering a better emergency response team for the residents of Porterville.

The remaining two fire station renovation projects have yet to kick off and are currently awaiting the bidding process, but Velarde said Porterville City Council is motivated to start the next project in the next year or two. The currently completed project will become a home base for the next department getting an upgrade while their renovations take place.

Velarde said the great benefit of the renovation project is the seamless way the new classroom will improve training for multiple agencies within the City of Porterville while offering enhanced mission capabilities and coordination with outside fire and police departments when responding to emergencies.

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