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We are in the process of building our first ever training facility in my volunteer outfit. We've looked at a lot of options and due to cost and being able to do a lot of the work ourselves have decided on building our facility out of metal shipping containers. Have any of you ever built or worked in a type of facility like this? Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated.

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We are in the process of doing the same thing. We are also interested in using shipping containers. If I get any insight I will pass it along.
Brian Slanaker
Thanks Brian I'ld appreciate any info or insite that you can offer.

Hi Brian,
I am in the process of getting my first shipping container and have 5-6 more on the way. If you get any good info on shipping container structures, could you please send it my way?

Thanks brother,
Stay safe,
Adam, West Boylston,MA built a training facility out of 2 railroad boxcars several years ago. They say it has worked out well. Also Nashua,NH just added 2 shipping containers to their burn building. Check with either of those Depts. for more information.
Thanks Gregg
We finally got the ball rolling and should be receiving 4 40ft shipping containers next month. Now we have to decide on the configuration. Any suggestions?
In the back of Fire House mag and the Firehouse Trader, there are a couple companys that build the can structures. Go to their websites and browse them. They have some good designs for ideas there.

Also, go to It is the Illinois Fire Service Institute website. We have a can training structure there. You can see the design used there.

Hope this helps.

Greg, Joe and Brian,
Thanks for all your input. We've been jumping through hurdle after hurdle so far with our project. The biggest issue we've been facing is how to finance some of the materials costs. We've already purchased 4 40' boxes and we got approval for a location in town. Currently we're raising money to get a set of engineered plans made (to put the building inspector at ease) and going throught he planning board, zoning board of appeals and conservation commsision for approval. After that we just have some site work to do and we can get the boxes in place. The big ticket items after that are the metal costs for doors, windows etc.... and the staircase. Again thanks for the info and I hope your projects are moving along well.
We looked at West Boylston, North Brookfield and Gardner's facilities in the initial stages of this project. I hadnt heard of Nashua though i'll check with Corey or Tim to see if we can get up there to scope it out. Thanks for the Info.


If you look at the picture I attached to the original post you can get the general idea of our layout. The 1st floor box we're building into the side of a hill so in the rear of it we're setting a set of pre-cast concrete stairs and next to those two septic tanks, both with metal doors into the rear wall of the 1st floor box.. This will allow us to do basement fire evolutions without sending anyone below grade (which is illegal). The septic tanks will be used for confined space training and the instructor will be able to be "in the h***" with the rescuer without actually being in the h***. The box all the way on the right of the picture we're standing on end to facilitate ground ladder training. Its going to be a small facility compared to most but we're trying to get the most bang for our buck. Hope it helps.

We are jumping through the same hoops. Actually we have a meeting with the City Manager next week. YIPPEE!! If you could email me your costs, that would really help and save me some leg work.




I came across your call for help and wanted to check in and see how it went. I have been greenlighted for some shipping container trainer construction and hope you have some photos or advice before I get in too deep. Anything is appreciated. Stay Safe,


Timothy Bullard

Hey Timothy,


Its been quite some time actually since that first post and we have gotten quite a bit accomplished since then.  We started the planning process in the fall of 2007 and due to financial constraints in our town/state we were forced to fundraise the entire project which added quite a bit of time to the project.  We started by visiting some other departments in our area who had already done similar projects and got some great ideas about layout and materials which we incorporated into our plan.  Next we started to fundraise as we sold our project to all of the town boards Selectman, Building Dept, Conservation, Zoning Board etc.. After getting approvals and changing our initial plan a few times to meet the requirements of all the regulatory agencies we started site work (spring 2009), we had been given a piece of land in the town gravel pit to use.  By November of that year we had finished the initial site work, poured sonotube bases for the two buildings and placed the boxes.  The next spring we got to work with a long punch list, a lot of custom metal work that we got a lot of help with from a couple of local welders, an outdoor classroom that was built as part of an Eagle Scout project, an office trailer that was donated by a local building contractor and quite a few props throughout the grounds.  By August of this year we had most of the facility operational and hosted a Firefighter Recruit Academy who did a lot of hands on training at the site.  We're just finishing buttoning it up for winter and plan on keeping the fundraising going again next year to finish off the punch list and keep the proverbial ball rolling.  The facility currently consists of a Burn Building that is one 40' container and a 20' container in an "L" configuration with some interior walls, it is built into the side of a hill so that we could install a set of bulkhead stairs and a septic tank (for confined space) into the hill behind the boxes with access into the boxes. The burn building also has two steel forcible entry doors and a standpipe riser.  There is also a Search and Rescue building that is two 40' boxes set side by side with three exterior doors and three interior doors cut between the two boxes, we have a moveable wall system inside so we can change the configuration to keep the guys on their toes and an SCBA confience course with wall breach, simulated high heat and suspended ceiling collapse props.  There is an outdoor classroom, office, hydrant prop, forcible entry prop. verticle and flat roof props.  We're hoping that next year we can purchase one additonal box and put a second floor on the Search and Rescue building so we'll have somewhere to conducted ground ladder training.  Hope that helps and if you have any questions or would like to see some more pictures send me your email address and I'ld be glad to help.


Adam Bean

Timothy Bullard said:



I came across your call for help and wanted to check in and see how it went. I have been greenlighted for some shipping container trainer construction and hope you have some photos or advice before I get in too deep. Anything is appreciated. Stay Safe,


Timothy Bullard



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