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Westchester County's 'Smoke House' Reopens

After $400,000 makeover, volunteer firefighters from across county can train at the structure.

Westchester County officials and the Grasslands Fire Brigade gathered in Valhalla Tuesday to unveil the Burn Building—or Smoke House—facelift.

A $400,000 reconstruction, according to a statement from the county, paired with an additional $100,00 in upgrades to the Live Burn Propane Building at the training site will allow training firefighters to again utilize the county resources to train.

"Each day, the members of the fire service in our county put themselves at risk responding to fires and other emergencies. They do everything they can to keep the public safe," County Executive Rob Astorino said in the statement. "The fire service has my commitment that the county will do all it can to keep firefighters safe."

The renovations, including masonry, structural and drainage work, were made possible through a $550,000 bond act approved by the Westchester County Board of Legislators last November, according to a press release from the BOL's Democrats.

The Democratic legislators said they "were pleased" about today's reopening.

“It is clear that County Executive was not going to fix the Smoke House until it was nearly falling down,” said Legislator Bill Ryan (D-White Plains). "Sadly, too many capital projects around Westchester are being neglected by the Administration. If the Board had gotten all the information necessary to move the project forward when we asked for, the work could have been completed last year.”

While the building not in use for the past two years, county firefighters completed some training in Rockland County.

According to Astorino's office, renovations to the structure include:

  • Rebuilding the burn area where wood pallets and bales of hay are set ablaze to create heat and smoke throughout the building;
  • Removing all old concrete from the walls of the first and second stories and replacing it with refractory cement, which stands up better to heat, smoke and the rigors of training;
  • Rebuilding the flooring on the first two levels;
  • Renovating the attic to include windows and dormers, and renovating the basement – all to improve the rescue and life-safety training that can place inside the structure.

Westchester County Department of Emergency Services Commissioner John M. Cullen noted another fire training center structure, the Live Burn Propane Building, is also undergoing a $100,000 renovation.

"We know that these improved facilities will help the fire service to train better and smarter,” Astorino said. “And we know we are on the right path – the number of training hours being provided and the number of firefighters being trained are both at record levels."

Cullen said that through August of this year, 17,000 county students have undergone more than 81,000 hours of training—an increase of 10 percent since 2010.

“The county is proud to partner with our local fire departments to provide the fire training services that ensure the safety of the members of the fire service who protect the rest of us,” Astorino said. “This is an essential and significant service that the county provides.”

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