New fire center incorporates technology with training

The Illinois Fire Service Institute is heading a $6 million construction project to develop a new Learning Resource and Research Center in southern Champaign near the corner of Windsor Road and Neil Street.

The Illinois Fire Service Institute is heading a $6 million construction project to develop a new Learning Resource and Research Center in southern Champaign near the corner of Windsor Road and Neil Street.

Construction on the 21,000 square-foot facility began in June, and the building is expected to be completed in November, said Richard Jaehne, director of the institute.

Jaehne said the institute is the state fire academy for Illinois and trains students from across the state. The money for the project comes from a combination of federal and state grants, and the center will allow the institute to incorporate new technologies into its curriculum.

“The center will consist of five components, including a memorial hall commemorating firemen lost in the line of duty and an expanded state library dedicated to fire and emergency services,” he said.

The library currently in use at the institute has limited space and resources, said Lian Ruan, head librarian of the institute.

“We have a very specialized collection of research and cases related to fire safety,” Ruan said. “With the new space we will be able to better serve the thousands of instructors and students that use our archives.”

Jaehne said the center will also include a new conference area that will allow the institute to communicate with other institutions on an international level. The final components of the center will include space for training and a Firefighter Life Safety Research Center.

“The research center will run firefighter protection engineering research,” he said. “The Emergency Operations Training Center will allow us to train in disastrous situations.”

Gavin Horn, director of research for the institute, said the new facility will greatly improve his research team’s ability to collect data.

“One of the rooms set up within the training center is an environmental chamber where we can control all of the settings of a burn structure, like temperature and humidity,” Horn said. “We can elevate the temperature to be similar to what someone working at a lower level of a fire might face.”

Horn also spoke about the benefits of the new research center.

“We will have a lot more resources available to us and a lot more equipment. We will be able to incorporate work from departments on campus like medicine, engineering and kinesiology,” he said.

Technology and research are two of the main focuses of the new center and about $1 million of the budget are appropriated to them, said Brian Brauer, assistant director of the institute.

“We’re already doing research, housing a library and training students, but in small offices and storage closets,” Brauer said. “The new center will give us a tremendous amount of capacity to do more.”

Brauer said that construction on the center, though a little behind schedule because of weather conditions, has been compressed to finish on time.

“We are really excited to move in to the new building, if you can’t already tell,” he added.

Horn expressed similar enthusiasm about the center.

“Now that we have this building it will be easier to bring the public in to see what capabilities we have,” he said. “It’s not just about firefighter safety. If we can improve their jobs we are better able to improve the safety of everyone.”