The city of Hillsboro reportedly is home to the largest fire department in Oregon that does not have its own dedicated training facility — but that is finally about to change.

Later this year, the Hillsboro Fire Department and the Hillsboro Police Department are expected to begin construction on a training complex to serve both departments. The facility will be built on an 11-acre parcel in the area of Northwest Bennett Street and Highway 26, northwest of the Hillsboro Stadium. Roughly four acres of the parcel will be developed for a public safety training center.

The new training site will include a multi-story tower for structural fire training, as well as a warehouse that can be configured for various simulations with police tactical training.

The project is expected to cost approximately $4 million, with the money to pay for the project coming from the Gain Share program. Gain Share was created by the 2007 Legislature as a method to restore more balance between the state of Oregon and local governments involved in “Strategic Investment Program” (SIP) agreements. As a partial trade-off for limiting local property taxes to encourage job growth, Gain Share grants local governments a share of income tax revenue generated by the retention and creation of SIP-related jobs.

“By building the public safety training center, the city of Hillsboro can provide a high quality training center for our police and fire department employees inside of our city boundaries,” said City Manager Michael Brown.

In the past, police and fire training exercises have been handled at different locations around the city when building owners have allowed public safety agencies to conduct them. Sites used for training purposes in recent years include local schools, a local church, Tuality Community Hospital and Hillsboro RV & Boat Storage.

“Our training needs include large areas for fire engines and police cars to repeatedly practice responding to simulated dangerous situations without impacting the citizens going about their daily business,” said Scott McDaniel, fire training division chief.

Having a dedicated facility will allow the two departments to schedule regular drills — including invaluable joint drills — without having to work through scheduling issues with private property owners.

“The evolution of police training and the required collaboration with police, fire departments and all public safety providers brings us together for fully-integrated training,” said Roberto Di Giulio, a Hillsboro Police Department tactics and training officer. “This facility will allow us to train together and to reach the safest and best practices for the training of our first responders.”

Fire Chief Greg Nelson said it’s rare in most communities for police and fire departments to train together, but in Hillsboro, collaboration is a point of emphasis that has received favorable attention from public safety agencies around the country.

“We know this because of the number of inquiries we get from police and fire agencies around Oregon and across the nation who have asked about and have come to watch what we’re doing,” said Nelson. “The new training center will allow both departments to improve services on daily incidents — such as motor vehicle crashes and fires — as well as for the rare incident such as a mass-casualty crash or a large-scale shooting.” 

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