By Chris Conrad
Jackson County sheriff’s Deputy Phil Cicero says he’s pleased with the agency’s new “shoot house” that will be used for SWAT training and training for other high-risk calls inside homes.
But his approval comes sight-unseen.
“I can’t go in there,” the veteran deputy said on Thursday. “I have a blind training coming up.”
Cicero is not allowed to check the layout of the shoot house before he steps inside for live-fire training. The goal is to force him to react to unknown situations that can confront patrol deputies anytime they step inside a strange house to hunt down a potentially armed bad guy.
The training house was assembled from materials donated by several area businesses. It sits at the Jackson County Sports Park on Kershaw Road, but the structure is restricted from public use.
The 40-foot-by-48-foot building certainly isn’t a handsome piece of real estate. Its sides already are chipped from bullet holes and the bare plywood exterior doesn’t project all the comforts of home.
But the shoot house gives SWAT deputies a place to practice room-clearing, forced entries and other important tactical skills.
The shoot house contains several rooms that can be altered to give the space a different look for each training exercise.
“When you go into a new house, you have no clue where the rooms are, how big they are and where there are blind spots,” Cicero said. “We want to make this as realistic as possible, while keeping it safe.”
The interior is a wide-open space with several rooms off to the side. Sometimes tables and other appliances are placed throughout the structure to give it the feel of an occupied residence, said Lt. Matt Thomson.
“We like to reconfigure the rooms, change things around,” Thomson said. “You never known when there’s a table in the way you can trip on, or something that you might not expect when entering a room. Homes are filled with toys, boxes and other things. It’s unpredictable.”
The shoot house is populated with suspect-shaped targets that are shaded various colors. Certain colors represent bad guys, while others are stand-ins for innocent bystanders.
“Sometimes you might have innocent people inside a home who have nothing to do with the crime,” Cicero said. “You want to keep them safe and target the threat.”
The materials used to build the structure were donated by Boise Cascade and Parr Lumber. Boise Cascade donated 54 sheets of plywood, while Parr Lumber donated several boards, doors and other supplies. In addition, the Rogue Valley Shooting Sports Association donated funds to the project.
“They had a need so we supplied them,” said Mel Weeks, manager at Parr Lumber. “They needed some doors so we worked with a vendor to get them some doors. We try to do whatever we can to support our local police and fire departments. And it keeps the costs down for them.”
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters said he appreciated the donations, as they saved the department precious dollars in a time of budget cuts.
“This shoot house came 100 percent from donations,” Winters said.
The new structure replaces an older training house that had become so riddled with bullet holes that it was deemed structurally unsound, Winters said.
“It really wasn’t safe to train in anymore,” Winters said.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.