Piqua training facility holds open house


By Eamon Baird

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PIQUA — The city of Piqua held an open house at the public safety facility located at 9300 State Route 66 on Thursday, April 18.

Members of the Piqua Police and Fire Departments were on hand to answer questions and offer demonstrations for the public.

The facility was recently occupied by Energy Safety Response Group (ESRG). On Sept. 19, it was determined that ESRG expanded its operations beyond limitations and the city notified the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Regional Air Pollution Control Agency (RAPCA).

On Sept. 22 ESRG ceased all lithium-ion battery testing, and on Sept. 26 the Ohio EPA issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to ESRG for air and wastewater violations under the Ohio Revised Code (ORC).

The Piqua Fire and Police Departments are looking forward to resuming training at the facility as both departments currently travel to Lewisburg, which is roughly 40 minutes away.

“If you’re taking a good portion of your people (out of town for training), where do you stand if you get a call and you’re out of town?” Tim Risner, assistant fire chief of Piqua said a about training while potentially needing to respond to emergency calls at the same time. “We have this in our backyard, so if the officer on duty says, ‘Hey, let’s come out here, we’re going to do some training drills.’”

At a Piqua Commission meeting in March, Piqua Fire Chief Lee Adams said 14 of the 24 firefighters in Piqua have less than one year of experience in the department.

“A lot of guys are coming in and they’re fit, they’re willing, but they don’t have a lot of experience, and that’s what the importance of this (facility) is,” Risner said.

Having this three-story facility, Risner said, can help firefighters train for real-life situations to better prepare for what they might encounter on a call. The second story of the facility features movable walls that can simulate the layout of a residence or business for fire and police training.

Like the fire department, the Piqua Police Department has many young officers.

“About two-thirds of our departments have less than two years of experience,” Piqua Police Chief Rick Byron said. “So we have a lot of training that we’ve got to get up to speed on and get proficient and this allows us to do it for those type of training exercises.”

“This affords us the opportunity we can do building searches in here, we can do hostage negotiation with our technical team, we can do the repelling and we can do low light to no light searches because it’s very dark in there,” Byron added.

Still, residents have expressed concerns about the effects of reopening the facility in the aftermath of ESRG.

“We understand people’s concerns and want to be transparent,” Risner said.

He said the majority of the training on the facility won’t include burning, but will use smoke machines. Firefighters will also use practice rescue techniques, including moving 165-pound-dummies up and down three flights of stairs, hose line management, and ladder management.

The city will give 24-hour notice before any live burning on the facility. Additionally, there will be multiple signs posted in front of the facility letting the public know about any active training days.

Over the last six months, the city of Piqua has taken steps to regain the trust of the community in the aftermath of ESRG’s lithium-ion battery burning, including the creation of a Fire Training Committee and an upcoming ordinance seeking to regulate any burning done by the city.

“Unequivocally, there was a problem, and everybody who originally noticed the problem, they were right in doing so,” Piqua Ward Four Commissioner Thomas Hohman said. “I think that we’re taking some real tangible steps to address how it happened we’re taking some real tangible steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and I think a lot of people are really satisfied with that.”

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