Seattle Fire Department will use Satsop Park for training

ELMA — The Seattle Fire Department will visit the Satsop Business Park in October to train for tunnel emergencies in a pair of enormous underground pipes at the former site of the abandoned Washington Public Power Supply System nuclear power project.

The pipes have been transformed into a tunnel rescue training complex.

The week of Oct. 15, about 30 Seattle firefighters will be the first to use the 12-foot diameter pipes to conduct specialized tunnel safety and rescue training. The department plans to use the new training center about 30 days a year, the business park said in a news release. Observers from the New York Fire Department will also be attending.

“There is nowhere in the United States that has the potential for tunnel training as this place does with its 12-foot tunnels,” said Alan Vickery, assistant chief of the Seattle Fire Department. “These pipes are similar to the real world of tunneling work that is taking place in the Seattle area as well as internationally. Nothing that I’m aware of in the U.S. even compares.”

Located 27 feet below the ground, the pair of parallel water pipes was intended to carry water to and from the twin cooling towers. To create the training site, one was dissected and the other was opened up to allow for three separate areas to set up various training scenarios. Digging out a portion of the pipe, dissecting the one pipe and installing needed safety systems cost Satsop Business Park about $200,000.

“To create a rescue training complex like this from scratch would cost millions of dollars,” said a statement from Tami Garrow, CEO of Satsop Business Park. “But at Satsop, we have this valuable infrastructure right beneath our feet that will benefit tunnel construction workers, repair crews, a wide range of rescue workers and the general public.”

The Seattle Fire Department has been contracted to provide tunnel rescue service for the Sound Transit Light Rail System, Vickery said in the new release.

Also at the business park is an outdoor tunnel construction training site being created by the Northwest Laborers-Employers Training Trust. That facility, complete with classrooms and a now-retired tunnel boring machine, nicknamed “Helene,” was created to teach tunnel workers how to safely operate in tunnels.

“Having this tunnel training rescue site at the park dovetails nicely with what we’re doing to create a national tunnel training complex, said Mike Warren, the training director of the Northwest Laborers-Employers Training Trust. “I can see fire departments from across the U.S. and Canada coming to Satsop to train.”