PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Local first responders will soon have a new training tool at their disposal. Panama City Beach City Council members approved the funding Thursday to build a new fire tower.

Panama City Beach officials have been planning the fire tower project for two years. Thursday morning, council members approved the $1.2 million to start construction at the beginning of next year.

“This now gives us an actual place to train,” Panama City Fire Battalion Chief Shawn Fiddler said. “We’ve never had a dedicated site that we could go and train before. We always relied on buildings under construction or ad-libbing what we could.”

The tower will have four stories each side representing a different dynamic of response.

“One side will be to cater to residential, one side to be catered to commercial, and another will be catered to condominiums and high rises,” Panama City Fire Chief Ray Morgan said.

The tower will provide the Panama City Beach Fire Rescue, Panama City Beach Police Department and Bay County Sheriff’s Office the opportunity to train for multiple situations.

“This facility for us will encompass all types of training, everything from high angel rope rescue to forcible entry,” Chief Morgan said. “Search and rescue, and active fire training, and also simulate residential as well as commercial occupancy. So we’ll be able to cover all of our required training aspects in this one facility.”

The majority of the funding is coming from a state grant. The rest is from the city’s reserve fund and impact fees. Chief Morgan said the tower will provide a central place for beach personnel to train without traveling to Panama City, which increases their response time to real emergencies that could arise in Panama City Beach.

This will be the first fire tower built in Panama City Beach. South Walton and Panama City are the only other places in our area that have fire towers.