Using shipping containers, Altoona opens new training center for area firefighters

Area firefighters can now get hands-on practice at a new facility in Altoona in critical techniques to help save lives.

The four-story structure made out of shipping containers, west of Venbury Drive, allows for fire personnel to train through realistic scenarios involving live fire, smoke or victim rescue in a controlled environment. The site, which was finished in August, cost about $750,000 and was covered through city and grant funding.

Altoona's new fire training facility opens up opportunities for firefighters in the city, and the region, to get hands-on practice in life-saving techniques.

Lance Routson, deputy chief of operations for the Altoona Fire Department, said the facility is unique to the area and is used to train firefighters while building their confidence when responding to real-life emergencies. They learn how to contend with fire, smoke and heat while navigating through new surroundings.

“You just have to do it to learn it,” Routson said.

The facility is open to other agencies in the region for training. Possible exercises and simulations include:

  • Maneuvering through unfamiliar hallways
  • Escaping through windows
  • Rescuing a person trapped in a confined space down multiple floors through hatches
  • Saving a dummy from a piece of furniture
  • Rope rescue at a high angle

A separate structure on site allows firefighters to practice techniques with hoses.

Chris Higgins covers the eastern suburbs for the Register. Reach him at or 515-423-5146 and follow him on Twitter @chris_higgins_.