By Matt Youngfrau
SULLIVAN COUNTY February 02, 2001 - For the last several years, Sullivan County has undergone several upgrades in the way emergency services train and respond.
The new offering of 911 was the latest, coming online late last year. Now, the fire companies in the area are looking to make an upgrade in the form of a fire training facility.
The completion and current use of the newly opened, countywide Training Facility Classrooms at the Sullivan County Airport has been seen by the fire service as an important first step in meeting their training needs. Now they are finally on the verge of getting a countywide hands-on training facility at the Sullivan County Airport.
"It will give the young and the experienced firefighters an opportunity to train in live fire conditions," commented Fire Training Facility Committee Chair Paul Hemmer. "This new hands-on live burn facility would go hand-in-hand with our existing classrooms at the airport and round out our firefighters to meet the requirements of today's training programs, which are crucial to maintaining the highest level of protection we can offer."
Before any work on the project begins, approval and assistance from the Sullivan County Legislature is needed. The land in question is under control of the FAA, and several steps must be taken to release it for this project's use. The training facility would be constructed on 8-10 acres, as part of a 30-acre parcel at the airport.
Yesterday, Hemmer spoke with legislators in the Public Works Committee about the project and was told that he should work on a cost and scope estimate and return to the committees next meeting. Legislators said they were simply concerned with ensuring that no tax monies are spent (as promised by those working to create the facility), saying that no one on the Legislature is against the project. Hemmer added that a site plan should be forthcoming in about a month.
Once the property is secure, the committee plans to offer several types of training at the site, patterned after a similar facility in Delaware County. Such situations as a repeated-use live burn building, propane or gas tank fires, and other such scenarios will be part of the facility. The firefighters will be able to learn about (and practice their skills on) ladders, combustible liquids, cutting open escape routes through walls and ventilation holes in roofs, etc.
According to fire officials, it will meet a need long overdue for firefighters.
"We have been sorely lacking when it comes to providing for some of the hands-on requirements of our training needs," said Hemmer. "In order to keep up with advancements in these training requirements and firefighting tactics, we must look to the future and move forward. This new facility will certainly fill the current gaps in our training requirements, and it will also provide for the training needs of generations to come."
The firefighters have not solely relied on the government for aid. The Sullivan County Volunteer Firefighters Association has designated half of all the revenue collected from their clothing collection fundraising program to be used to help fund the fledgling project.
"We are looking at this as a long-range project which will be completed in several stages," Hemmer stated. "The most important step will be the acquisition of the property. The monies dedicated to this project by the Firefighters Association will be instrumental in the startup phase of this project."
While the first part of the project, the live burn facility, could come relatively quickly, the timetable for the project to be totally completed is estimated by Hemmer to be between five and ten years.