Helena airport secures federal grant for fire training center upgrades

Posted at 9:42 PM, Sep 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-08 11:52:03-04

HELENA — The Helena Regional Airport has secured more than $4.9 million in federal funding, to pay for a major upgrade to the Rocky Mountain Emergency Services Training Center.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced last week that the airport would receive an Airport Improvement Program grant to support the project. According to a release from U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s office, about 10% of that came from an expansion of the AIP as part of the CARES Act COVID-19 relief package.

The RMESTC, located on the airport campus, gives firefighters from around the country practice in putting out aircraft fires. The facility features life-size airplane models, and operators can use propane to create everything from a burning engine to a full-scale fire around the fuselage.

Airport director Jeff Wadekamper said the grant will pay to fully replace the center’s fire system, which was installed more than 20 years ago. In addition, it will provide funding for repairs to the training center building.

Wadekamper said the center is important because it is one of only a few facilities in the western U.S. that provides this type of training. He said the upgrades will help ensure that the center can serve the needs of firefighters for years to come.

Work is set to begin in October. It should wrap up by April, in time for the next training season at the center.