A new facility at the state Fire Academy that will help train those looking for gas leaks was previewed by state and private officials Thursday.

The setup, called Safety City, is a training area to help private and public natural gas or utility inspectors, firefighters and others detect gas leaks, which can prevent explosions and other fire safety hazards. It’s the first of its kind for Mississippi, officials said.

Officials from the Mississippi Public Service Commission, Mississippi Insurance Department, Atmos Energy and others unveiled the new two-acre site Thursday during a news conference at the academy that included a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours around the mock houses.

The area, located near the center of the Mississippi Fire Academy’s Jackson campus includes five mock houses that leak gas in different areas.

Public Service Commission chairman Brandon Presley said training sites like Safety City are important for the entire natural gas industry, considering Mississippi is home to 10,000 miles of natural gas pipelines.

“We’ve seen way too many instances … where pipeline explosions have claimed lives and property,” Presley said.

Safety City will eventually add training sessions for repairing live gas lines and propane tanks, said Safety City director Jasper Bruce.

Safety City joins a handful of training facilities on the academy’s 85 acres that simulate fires and hazardous material leaks in buildings, drill towers, tanks and rail cars.

Depending on the training schedule of the fire academy, 10-15 people will be able to take Safety City’s classes about twice a month in three-day sessions that will focus on the different scenarios that can cause gas leaks, the latest tools and technology that can detect those leaks, code compliance and other topics.

The first round of classes is planned for September, Bruce said.

Reggie Bell, executive director of the Mississippi Fire Academy, said the mock houses were donated to the campus by Safety City partners such as the Mississippi Natural Gas Association and various utility companies.

“There’s really no taxpayers’ dollars that was used on this,” Bell said.

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