During the grand opening for new $5 million state-of-the-art training center, county fire leaders welcomed residents, elected officials and dozens of firefighters for the ribbon-cutting ceremony and demonstrations on the new training structures.
Cherokee County Fire Chief Tim Prather marked the facility opening as one of the biggest milestones for county fire services and called it a “great achievement.”
“This is probably one of the greatest days of my career here in Cherokee County,” Prather said.
Prather said before the training center opened, firefighters had to travel to other centers to train.
“Not only do we cut those miles out, now, we can do it more,” Prather said. “I’m a happy chief.”
Cherokee firefighters demonstrated house-fire rescue and tower rescue situations, relating them to possible rescue operations in the area.
Cherokee County Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Robinson said he is “proud of the community, really proud of this facility, and even more proud of the men and women of the Cherokee County Fire Department.”
“Since Nov. 1, we’ve conducted 3,800 hours of training at this facility,” Robinson said.
Robinson said the county has an inspection of its fire services coming up and the additional training hours help raise the county’s fire safety rating, saving taxpayers money on their fire insurance cost.
“When we worked with the designers to design this facility, we looked at the different homes and the different businesses in Cherokee County,” Robinson said. “We now have a place to train for (those) scenarios.”
Robinson explained the facility is built next to a pond, and the pond water is pumped up to the fire hydrants at the training center, allowing the firefighters to train without spending money on water.
Retired former Cherokee County fire chief and Cherokee County District 2 Commissioner Raymond Gunnin said this was a facility the county had “dreamed of for years, and years, and years.”
“I don’t think you could find a better facility anywhere in the United States,” Gunnin said at the ceremony Tuesday.
Randy Gravley, chairman of the 2013 Chamber of Commerce, said the county has the best schools, the best health care and the best fire services.
“We have the best public safety in the state of Georgia,” Gravley said. “Training has been paramount to the fire services and the opening of this facility will continue the training to make sure that each and every one of our brave men and women in our fire services stays safe as they’re trying to make sure the residents of Cherokee County stay safe, as well.”
Gunnin told a story about a fire that happened during his time as the county fire chief, when “the worst thing” that can happen, happened.
“Three firefighters were hurt,” he said. “I went straight to Grady.”
Gunnin said the firefighters told him if they “hadn’t been trained the way that we were trained,” they wouldn’t have made it out of the fire alive.
“No matter what it costs, no matter what people say about it, it’s worth every penny that we spent on it if we can save one life,” he said.
The second phase of construction is expected to be completed in about six months and includes additions of an administration building and classrooms.
The training center is at 3985 Holly Springs Parkway in Holly Springs and sits on 14.5 acres that was formerly Pikes Nursery property.
The facility was designed by Pond and Company and constructed by Cablik Enterprises, and the $5 million price tag for the training center was funded by Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.