On June 13, the San Diego Harbor Police
became the first maritime agency on the West Coast to
put into operation an ecologically friendly, floating,
Manufactured by Southwest Mobile, Inc. of Phoenix,
Ariz., the platform was fitted on a demilitarized naval
vessel at the 10th Street Terminal and then
moved to 24th street in National City where
it will remain until going into operations.
One of the best features of the new fire-training
platform is everything was obtained at no cost to the
A grant to purchase the platform was obtained by the
Harbor Police under the 2004 Urban Areas Security
Initiative Program (UASI), and the boat was purchased
with another grant from the Defense Reutilization and
According to Sgt. Eric Womack, training supervisor
for the Harbor Police, the idea for the floating
platform was first considered in the early part of 2005
and, "things just sort of came together at the right
"We’ll be able to use it to train for
hazardous-materials emergencies and fighting fires," he
explained in an interview with Arizona Boating &
Watersports. "It’s great. All we’ll have to do is
flip a switch," he said with enthusiasm echoing in his
words. "It’s just like lighting a barbeque."
Womack explained the unit is made from used conex
boxes and can be reconfigured to simulate different
environments inside. It produces environmentally
friendly artificial smoke and works on liquid propane
"We can even move the areas around inside the box to
produce multi-level crawl spaces you might find inside a
boat," he added.
Womack also said the platform will be made available
to other agencies in the county.
Southwest Mobile took approximately six months to
build the platform, and Jim Benassi, vice president of
design and fabrication for the company, was on hand to
help assemble the unit.
According to Benassi, the father of the company’s
founder, is a professor of forensics engineering at
Arizona State University and came up with the idea of
using steel containers as fire-training platforms.
"They’ve been doing this for about 20 years in
Europe," he told Arizona Boating & Watersports,
"but we’ve just started manufacturing them here."
In addition to building fire-training platforms,
Benassi’s company constructs training units for other
uses. Recently they fabricated a 5,000 square-foot
training tower for the town of Buckeye, Ariz., and for
Glendale Community College.
"We’ve built about 27 fire-training units so far,"
Benassi said. "However, this is the first one that’s
been built to put on a boat."
More information on the fire-training units can be
obtained by going to Southwest Mobile’s Web site at: