FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- A new live fire training facility for the 502nd Civil Engineer Squadron's Fire Emergency Services team had its official opening March 29 and will allow firefighters to train in a dedicated, safe, realistic environment with no impact on base services.

Construction on the three-story training tower, located at Building 3202 on Petroleum Road, began in March 2010 and was finished in December 2010.

Resembling a residential building, the four-level structure was built in accordance with National Fire Protection Association standards and cost approximately $750,000 to construct.

"This will not only enhance and maintain the skills of Fort Sam Houston firefighters, but also benefit to our local mutual aid cooperators who also train here," Said Col. Mary A. Garr, 502nd Mission Support Group commander, who assisted in cutting the ribbon to officially open the facility.

Fort Sam Houston has signed a mutual aid agreement with the city of Alamo Heights in 2010, enabling the municipality to use its training facilities and response to emergencies within the hamlet as if they were generated from their own premises.

The interlocal agreement allows Fort Sam Houston's firefighting force to assist Alamo Heights should a major fire occur, according to an article in the North Central News. FSH firefighters have also reached training and mutual aid agreements with fire departments in Terrell Hills, Olmos Park and Shavano Park, near Camp Bullis.

After taking part in the ribbon cutting, Garr accompanied Lt. Rayna Dempsey on a tour of the facility to get a close look at the four working deck levels of the 30-foot tower, which is equipped for rappelling and laddering. It has burn rooms on the first and second floors, a confined space silo; chop-out hatches and rappelling rings.

A demonstration of the first-floor burn room saw two firefighters light a pile of hay, paper and wood on fire. The fire was allowed to build, as temperature monitors on the outer walls helped assure proper heat control in burn areas, which can reach temperatures of 700 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

After burning for several minutes as guests at the ceremony watched, a pair of FSH firefighters moved in to quickly extinguish the flames and make sure the fire was completely out.

"This building provides training for a variety of exercises such as live fire training, hose advancement, fire attack, ventilation, search and rescue, laddering and rappelling, roof penetrations, confined space exercises, high angle rescue operations and more," said FSH fire chief Curtis Williams.