Public Input Needed Regarding MSFD Training Facility

Citizens and Business Owners of Manitou Springs,

The Manitou Springs Fire Department needs your help.  Last year, the Fire Department placed an initiative for a training facility on the ballot for the 2017 election.  This facility proposal was the result of a two and a half year project involving City Council, city department heads, the City Administrator, members of the Fire Department and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA).  During those two and a half years, numerous council meetings helped to shape the design proposal through open discussion. Unfortunately, the action did not pass and your Manitou Springs Volunteer Fire Department still has a training problem.  We need a training facility that provides a suitable environment for training and allows us to continue to give the high level of service our citizens have come to expect.  

We need a structure that can take years of abuse from fire department training.  This structure must be able to have ladders thrown against it hundreds of times a year, have hose drug through it and thousands of gallons of water flowing inside of it.  We need space to park fire engines, hook up to fire hydrants.  The drill ground must be able to effectively drain water and be in a location that is not disruptive to the neighbors.

We have found such a space where previous surveys have been performed, and it includes recent updated plans.  These surveys and plans were paid for using city dollars and DOLA funds from our previous effort, as well as much donated time from our architect James W. Nakai & Associates.  In our desires to also remain fiscally responsible to the citizens of Manitou Springs, we do not want any of those funds or time to go to waste. We understand that many citizens felt their voices were not heard and wanted greater inclusion in the process. Because of this, we are formally coming to you, our citizens and business owners of Manitou Springs to ask for your input.

Our current training situation is dismal.  We are unable to meet our firefighters needs and have limited options.  One option involves leaving the city to go to a neighboring training facilities.  Unfortunately this requires taking apparatus and firefighters out of our city.  More importantly, the surrounding facilities are often unavailable.  This is important because our firefighters need to consistently train, and in many cases, the same subject of training needs to be offered repeatedly to meet the scheduling needs of our volunteers.  At neighboring facilities we find difficulty scheduling the necessary hours for our folks. The Colorado Springs Fire training tower is subject to extensive ongoing training within their own department, and priority for Ft. Carson’s Fire training tower goes to their department first and then to Pikes Peak Community College, making it near impossible to schedule.

The more reliable option is to train within our own city.  Unfortunately, we currently spend 30 to 45 minutes to find an adequate place to train. Usually this means we end up in a parking lot or behind the fire station.  These environments do not provide the challenges that your firefighters would run into if we responded to a fire at your residence or business.  A parking lot is just not a good place to practice a coordinated and expeditious fire attack.

One of the most straight forward and practiced skills a firefighter performs is rapidly deploying a fire hose from the fire engine to the seat of the fire.  Seems pretty simple until you consider that the hose with water weighs approximately 45 pounds per 50 feet and the firefighter is wearing an additional 40 pounds of gear.  In real life, the fire ground is not a parking lot.  In Manitou Springs especially, it means there may be great distances with vertical challenges.  The hose must be deployed to the structure over uneven terrain, up or down stairs or ladders, through doorways or windows that must be held open to prevent pinching the hose or trapping firefighters, travelling around corners and down tight hallways into bedrooms, basements or attic spaces.  This is one very simple skill of hundreds that should be practiced over and over with varied obstacles to develop proficiency.

I hope that you can understand some small portion of our concerns.  We have a problem and need your help.  Do you have ideas for a solution to the needs described above?  What would you support?  Maybe you are not stuck in the same paradigms as we are and with your differences, maybe you see something we do not.  We want to hear your ideas

We have returned to the planning phase and have several new ideas and options.  One, which seems most viable to us is a facility that does not have a burn module, but does meet a large portion of our needs and provides for growth in the future for other needs if required.  It builds off the previous surveys and design that was paid for by DOLA and matching funds from the city, and uses the previous location identified at Public Works.  The remaining cost is potentially under a million dollars.  Would this be a good starting spot?  Do you have other ideas?

We would like to meet with you.  We will hold an open house on Sunday, September 16th @ 2:00pm at the Manitou Springs Fire Department to have an open forum discussion about how we could create a successful plan to establish an environment for your firefighters to train. Please join us, and if you cannot make this time, please send me an email with your thoughts or ideas to

Respectfully Submitted,

John K. Forsett, Fire Chief