Less than a year after being approved for construction, the Midlothian Fire Department’s new training tower is officially open for business.

The training facility is located on five city-owned acres on Auger Road, directly adjacent to the city’s Water Treatment Plant No. 2. Midlothian fire chief Dale McCaskill said the facility was turned over to the city last Friday and training began on Monday.

“We’re certifying 12 of our firefighters to Rope Rescue Technician level,” McCaskill said. “They’re the first class that we’re sponsoring. “

The initial Operations Level course is working in three shifts, with four members in each class. The first course is 40 hours, and all members will be back next week to finish up with a 30-hour Technician Level course. The class is being taught under Texas Rescue.

The training facility presently consists of a four-story tower section, a two-story residential/commercial section and a one-story annex. The facility also has two Class A burn rooms, multiple access points for ladders and rappels and a balcony inset that simulates an apartment landing.

McCaskill said the infrastructure is already in place for additional training facilities in the future, including a 20-foot-deep manhole for training for below-grade rescues. The manhole is being donated to the fire department by the city public works department, which will use the manhole for its training as well. Eventually, a modular classroom will be added on site.

“We’ll be building different types of props to create more training scenarios for us,” McCaskill said.

The chief added that surrounding communities that have mutual aid agreements with Midlothian will also be able to use the facility for training. Some of the local industries will utilize the building as well for their own confined-space and rope-rescue training.

“It’s probably one of the best, if not the best, training facilities south of Dallas,” McCaskill said, “There’s really nothing like it in the area.”

McCaskill had told the city council last year that the department had to alternate between training at the MISD Multipurpose Stadium parking lot and Waxahachie’s training facility before their own facility was approved.

McCaskill had also told council members that for a community of Midlothian’s size, constructing a training facility of their own is something the city should be proud of. He said it sends a message that the city cares about and is willing to support its firefighters.

Last November, the Midlothian City Council approved construction of the training facility, earmarking a maximum amount of almost $633,000. The council’s approval came after voters authorized a $9.1 million bond issue in 2017 for a new fire station to be located west of Main Street and U.S. Highway 287.

McCaskill said the new fire station is ahead of schedule, with a projected move-in by May 2020.

“We haven’t had any issues to date that were significant,” McCaskill said. “We had to deal with very challenging soils in the area so we’ve been doing a lot of construction underground. It’s just now starting to poke up through the ground, so people can actually see some of the structure. We’re ahead of schedule and doing well.”