Model buildings aid in firefighter training |

Model buildings aid in firefighter training

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colordao
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

SUMMIT COUNTY ” For emergency responders, the nature of the job is to train for the worst, and hope for the best.

This month, the High Country Training Center ” which develops training exercises for all the firefighters in the county ” wanted to present its students with a problem that would be overwhelming and would tie up radio traffic so they could sharpen their communication skills.

Training Capt. Paul Kuhn and training lieutenants Skip Bergbauer and Ryan Roberts devised this scenario: A helicopter crashes into the emergency bay at Summit Medical Center as it’s taking off, wiping out an ambulance and erupting into flames, which then spread into the emergency room.

But instead of using words or pictures to describe the fabricated incident, for the first time, trainers built the scene.

Bergbauer and Roberts used actual plans from Summit Medical Center and the Medical Office Building to construct 1:100 scale models of the prominent buildings.

Over the course of a week, they pieced together the 4-foot by 8-foot scene using foamboard for the buildings, spray-painted cotton to simulate smoke and flames, miniature trees from a hobby shop and toy cars, trucks and fire engines.

“The best thing for them is to visualize what’s going on, that’s the key to having this here,” Kuhn said, standing over the tabletop-sized emergency. “They’ll be able to see where their trucks are staged … then they’ll be able say, ‘Ok, I’m going to make entry through this door into this area of this hospital.'”

In February, 21 fire crews from Red, White and Blue Fire, Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue and the Copper Mountain Fire Department will file into the training center at the County Commons for a 3-hour communications class centered around the mock medical campus.

The idea is to present firefighters with a situation at a location they’re familiar with, where they will potentially respond to emergencies, instead of using a nondescript building, Bergbauer said.

The project was paid for with $2,000 the Summit County Sheriff’s Office gave the center for training props.

The training team also plans to build a mock-up of Summit High School, which will be used for firefighter classes and training exercises for the countywide incident management team.

The High Country Training Center is run by Summit Fire Authority, which is funded by all three local fire districts.

The center facilitates monthly classes on various subjects for all local firefighters, EMS training nine times a year and quarterly hazmat classes for emergency responders.

Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at

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