A zealous crew of firefighters have shown Lodi Fire Chief Gene Stoddart that they want to train more, and with a proposal to add Conex boxes to Station 2 on Cherokee Lane, they could get what they are asking for.

The conversation was brought before the Lodi City Council by Stoddart at a Tuesday morning shirtsleeve meeting.

“The guys in the department are constantly looking to train. I have never worked with a group of firefighters that have wanted to train as much as this crew here,” Stoddart said. “It makes me proud as their chief to see how dedicated and interested they are in what they do.”

The fire department would like to convert the 64-foot gravel surface on the north side of the station's property with three Conex boxes, meant to resemble single-family homes, A Conex box is a one-story steel storage container that is modified to offer simulations that are critical for emergency training. Each Conex box can be customized to fit the department’s needs, according to Stoddart.

Conex boxes can be built to simulate various types of fires, including rollover fires which result after gases rise towards a ceiling, and backdraft which happens when smoke from a fire does not have room to escape and causes a smoke explosion.

“We are looking for simple Conex boxes that will have a flat roof prop and a pitched roof prop, so we can practice with both commercial and residential roofs,” Stoddart said.

The purpose of having roof props is so firefighters can learn how to saw through roofs, which helps increase visibility inside a burning property and creates another channel for the smoke to escape.

“Having the Conex boxes also helps us to address mistakes we made on a call right away instead of having to wait for an opportunity for us to go to Stockton to train,” Stoddart said.

Lodi Fire currently uses the Stockton Fire Department’s training facility to practice with lifelike simulations.

Stockton Fire’s facility consists of three Conex boxes with live fire training capabilities, a four-story drill tower and a basement that helps firefighters train for basement fires.

Lodi Fire has also received properties donated by homeowners and developers for training purposes.

“It has been hard to get properties to practice with, because a lot of vacant properties has or had homeless occupants, and so the properties will be littered with feces and hypodermic needles,” Stoddart said.

“The last property we had donated to us had asbestos in the roof and we could not use it because it was a health and safety concern.”

Stoddart believes that having a place to train on-site will allow firefighters to train more frequently and increase the department's ability to deploy strategies when on the scene at a live fire.

“The Conex boxes are not a permanent solution to a training facility, and it’s definitely a short-term solution. We have been looking at the Sloughhouse property as a potential place to develop a facility,” Stoddart said.

The fire department has a props budget that it would use to finance the purchase of Conex boxes. The department has also reached out to Steve Dutra, the president of Tree Lodi, about having trees and minor landscaping added to the north side of the station to conceal the Conex boxes from the street’s view.

The Lodi City Council did not express any concerns over the department's plans.

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