DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -- After 3-and-a-half years, the Wiregrass Public Safety Center leaders unveiled their $23,000,000 facility today.
Fire tower at the Wiregrass Public Safety Center
There are numerous safety centers around the country, but none that match the one here in Dothan, Alabama.
"We plan to have the public out here on a regular basis watching experiencing and learning from the first responders and the first responders learning from them," Wiregrass Foundation President Barbara Alford said.
This is the only safety center in the country that is available to the public.
"I think what really drew everybody in was the community involvement aspect of this thing that made it a one of a kind facility in the country, not only police fire and emergency services full-time and volunteer, but the citizens as well," Dothan Police Chief Steve Parrish said.
This new facility opens the opportunity to grow relationships between citizens and first responders.
"Being able to, as a regular citizen, experience some of those [situations] through some of the simulators out here, it makes a real difference when you're put in that situation, but you're actually experiencing the stress, you're seeing the scenario you realize that those decisions happen instantaneously," Alford said.
Local agencies typically have to travel long distances to get proper training, but now other agencies will be coming to the Wiregrass to train.
"We need to always think regionally,” Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba said. “We'll do more. We'll get more. We'll be able to think larger and bigger if we can communicate and collaborate and sometimes compromise, we'll build a great community."
The first half of the 20+ acre facility includes classrooms, a gym the teach me house, a pond to practice dives and a kennel for police k-9s while the back half has a 4-story fire tower, railroad training, active shooter training with obstacles and a landing pad.
The Dothan Fire Department has been set back in training in the past because of public safety concerns.
The only available training site was the one at Westgate Park just feet from the walking trail.
“The past 15 years we've really not had a good site to do live burn training on, so this facility will take away all those worries and provide us with two different locations here we can do that,” Dothan Fire Chief Larry Williams.
The center will be hosting classes as early as February.
Class information will be posted on the platforms for the Dothan Police, Dothan Fire and Wiregrass Public Safety Center.