New fire training station opens in Vail Valley |

New fire training station opens in Vail Valley

Dustin Racioppi
Vail Valley, CO Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado ” As menial as it looked Saturday while John German, a probationary firefighter with Gypsum Fire Department, hoisted a 24-foot ladder to a second-story Vail Valley window, it was an opportunity he and other local firefight-ers hadn’t had until now, and it was a welcome one.

German and other members were training at the Robert Spuhler Emergency Services Training Tower on Saturday afternoon just before its grand-opening ceremony.

The tower is owned by Colorado Mountain College for its fire science students and is open to any of Eagle County’s emergency service branches for training purposes.

It’s more than just getting a ladder to a window, though. The new building is designed to simulate burning rooms, a smoke-filled confined area and can also be used for police to practice repelling down the side of a building, among other things necessary for responders to train on.

Before that, the nearest training facilities were in Rifle or at home with a book in hand.

“We wanted to have the search and rescue of live fire, and that is what this is going to do,” said the building’s name-sake, former college president Bob Spuhler. “(We) had heard from so many of the fire chiefs, if we had something like this, it would be such a boost for local firefighters.”

Nearly $500,000 later, it already has been of use. German, who’s already been to two trainings at the tower, said he anticipates spending a lot of time at the building polishing up his skills to earn his certification.

“Training’s real crucial, and they want to build this into a whole training center ” which is brilliant,” he said. “We all need it.”

The college’s fire science program coordinator, Kurt Keis-er, said if taken care of properly, the building should last between 30 and 40 years. And he intends to take full advan-tage of the building by getting his students as close to real action as possible.

“We’re just really excited about getting this tower going,” he said.

But they need to be careful, Keiser said.

“Nearly eight to 10 firefighters die a year in training,” he said. “We really want to be focused on safety. It’s still fire, and it can get out of control.”

That’s why there were no pyrotechnic displays for the crowd Saturday. Instead, Keiser, Spuhler and other college employees set a small flame to a line of caution tape across one of the building’s doors to mark its arrival in Gypsum.

“It’s one of a kind,” German said. “It’s going to be amazing.”

Support Local Journalism