Special to IFN

Shepherds Fire Rescue, rooted in the community since its inception in 1961 under the auspices of the Lions Club, reached a significant milestone with the completion of its new Firefighter Training Facility, aptly named The Heartbreak Hotel.

What began as a grassroots effort by community members to address the need for fire protection has evolved into a cutting-edge training center aimed at preparing firefighters for the complex challenges of modern emergencies.

The journey to The Heartbreak Hotel began in 2010, when Shepherds Fire Rescue acquired four metal Conex containers to serve as the foundation for a makeshift training building. Over the years, dedicated members transformed these containers into a vital training resource, constructing walls, stairs, and even a large confined space maze to simulate diverse firefighting scenarios.

In late 2022, Assistant Chief Rick Dunn initiated plans for a comprehensive training facility that would meet ISO Credit requirements, a first for Shepherds Fire Rescue. The ambitious project gained momentum in August 2023 with the selection of Forge Fire and Company to design and construct a facility tailored to the needs of modern firefighting.

Collaborating closely with Todd Shepherds of Forge Fire and Company, Assistant Chief Dunn outlined a vision for a three-story structure made up of nine Conex containers. The facility boasts essential features such as a burn room, forcible entry door, residential floor plans on the first and second floors, an office layout on the third floor, a roof ventilation prop, FDC and sprinkler prop, and a repel tower atop the building.

The proposal received unanimous approval from Shepherds Board of Directors, recognizing the critical need for on-site training facilities that allow firefighters to hone their skills without leaving the community vulnerable during emergencies. Construction commenced swiftly after securing necessary permits, and by June 2024, The Heartbreak Hotel stood proudly as a testament to community support and dedication.

“We are deeply grateful to our Board of Directors, County Commissioners, and the citizens of Iredell County whose unwavering support made this facility possible,” Assistant Chief Dunn said. “The Heartbreak Hotel signifies our commitment to excellence in service, ensuring our firefighters are prepared to protect lives and property in every situation.

“We are here for them.”

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