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Westchester Fires Up Valhalla Training Facility

VALHALLA, N.Y. – Westchester County on Tuesday reopened its Smoke House training building in Valhalla, a facility that can re-create residential fires for local fire companies.

“Residential fires are really our bread and butter,” said Commissioner John Cullen of the Westchester Department of Emergency Services. “Given the makeup of our county, a lot of the fires that our local departments respond to are house fires.”

The Smoke House, located at the Westchester fire training facility on Dana Road, resembles a home in which a fire can be created and extinguished for training purposes. The mostly concrete building can sustain fires with temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and features multiple levels and rooms to help re-create rescue missions.

The house was shut down two years ago for renovations, which totaled $400,000. The building was constructed in 1979, and the interior went through extensive wear and tear throughout the years, Cullen said. The renovations included rebuilding the burn area where the fire begins, replacing the flooring and renovating the attic area to include windows.

County Executive Rob Astorino, who was on hand for the unveiling Tuesday, said the improvements were key in order to keep firefighters up to speed with their training.

“These improvements aren’t going to win any sort of aesthetic awards, but they’re essential for our emergency services,” Astorino said.

Members of the Grasslands Fire Brigade, who cover the jurisdiction of the Grasslands area in Valhalla, demonstrated the uses of the building by extinguishing a fire there on Tuesday.

The county will hold certification sessions at the facility, and departments throughout the county can schedule practice sessions at their discretion, Cullen said. He added that reopening the facility is especially important for new firefighters.

“We don’t want the first fire experience for our firefighters to be out in a real house fire,” Cullen said. “And this is as close as you can get to the real thing.”

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