Firefighting demonstration highlights ceremony at San Juan College's Hutton Street campus

Project cost $2.6 million for new fire tower, facility renovations

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
Area firefighters give a demonstration on June 15 at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on the San Juan College South Campus in Farmington. The ceremony highlighted the new $1.2 million fire tower.
  • San Juan College on June 15 held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its South Campus facility at 800 S. Hutton Road.
  • The project was completed in fall 2019 but has had limited operations since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Troy Brown, program coordinator for the fire science program, told The Daily Times the new fire tower replaces the 30-year-old tower that was housed on the college’s main campus on College Boulevard.

FARMINGTON — Members of the community were able to see an up-close demonstration of San Juan College’s new fire tower as part of an event held to celebrate the completion of the $2.6 million project to renovate the college's satellite facility.

College officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony June 15 for the South Campus facility at 800 S. Hutton Road, which houses the college’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) and fire science programs.

Most of the funds for the project were approved by the community as part of a 2015 bond measure.

The project was completed in fall 2019 but has had limited operations since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ceremony was previously scheduled for spring 2020.

The architecture firm was Rodahl and Humell Architecture. Winters Construction and Spellbring Construction were the firms involved as the contractors of the project.

Farmington firefighter Jacob Fuller talks about his equipment to children on June 15 during a demonstration at the San Juan College South Campus in Farmington. The event was held to celebrate the completion of the new fire tower and renovations at the classroom building.

Troy Brown, program coordinator for the fire science program, told The Daily Times the new fire tower replaces the 30-year-old tower that was housed on the college’s main campus on College Boulevard.

The old fire tower was demolished near the end of February 2020, according to physical plant senior director Chris Harrelson.

“Safety-wise, this is world class,” Brown said. “Our students are much, much safer. Even our instructors are safer.”

Brown joked during the ribbon-cutting ceremony about the old fire tower, stating instructors “basically piled up a bunch of stuff” to burn it and hoped everybody would be safe.

San Juan College President Toni Pendergrass, center, welcomes the crowd on June 15 to a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the college's South Campus in Farmington. Standing behind Pendergrass are, left to right, School of Energy Dean Alicia Corbell, Fire Science Program Coordinator Troy Brown, Farmington Deputy Fire Chief Robert Sterrett and San Juan County Fire Chief John Mohler.

The $1.2 million tower is a four-story, 4,606-square-foot structure designed to help train first responders by putting them through various scenarios.

The renovation of the classroom building cost about $800,000. The $2.6 million project includes $600,000 to repave the facility for CDL students.

The fire tower uses natural gas to help simulate fire in the tower, along with a smoke generator to create environments for potential firefighters to train in.

Firefighters at the event staged one demonstration in a room on the first floor of the tower, battling a simulated fire on the ceiling of the room.

Attendees watched as three firefighters tackled the blaze, then searched the room for occupants.

A second demonstration involving a car fire simulator ran into some technical issue as firefighters eventually demonstrated their response to a vehicle fire without the simulator generating flames.

A June 15 ribbon-cutting ceremony at San Juan College's South Campus in Farmington highlighted the new $1.2 million fire tower.

San Juan College President Toni Pendergrass spoke during the ceremony, along with San Juan County Fire Chief John Mohler and incoming Farmington Fire Chief Robert Sterrett.

“Our tower serves as a critical public safety training tool for our area firefighters and emergency personnel,” Pendergrass said during the event.

Brown was excited for the fire tower to be fully operational again.

The fire science program operated through most of 2020 and part of this year with limited class sizes and more classes to handle the smaller numbers size due to COVID-19.

Ed DesPlas, college executive vice president, told The Daily Times first responder training had to continue and operated within the state’s public health orders.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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