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Fire training needs growing in county

February 25, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association officials want a training center that's bigger than the one operated by the City of Hagerstown, but for now would settle for more classroom space and a full-time instructor, according to the association's president.

There's no room for growth at the city's Bowman Avenue training center, which county volunteers use for much of their training, said President Jay Grimes.

There also is not enough training time available for county volunteers, officials said.

City officials last week expressed concern that construction of a second training center would result in duplication of facilities and services.

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"Let's put those concerns on the table and see what we can do to address them before running off and building a second training facility," Mayor Steven T. Sager said.

If the city's training center has shortcomings, county and city officials should discuss ways to improve the facility, Sager said.

If the facility can't be improved to meet the county's needs, then the two elected bodies should join forces to build a new training center, he said.

He said he will try to arrange a joint county-city meeting to discuss fire protection issues.

"I agree that we don't need to have two fire training centers in the county," said County Commissioner James R. Wade.

Since there are limitations on how often county firefighters can use the facilities, the solution might be construction of a larger center for use by the city and county, Wade said.

The lack of classroom space also is a problem, Grimes said. County firefighters and emergency medical service volunteers must travel to Cumberland, Md., or elsewhere for training classes.

Grimes said the association would talk to the County Commissioners about getting more classroom space and funding for a $30,000 instructor's position before the end of April.

The association asked for a training center at least three times during the 1980s, but the county didn't have the funding, Grimes said.

"The county just doesn't have a lot of money for a fire training center," said Commissioner R. Lee Downey.

Funding to buy land or a building for the training center might be available through Washington County Gaming Commission funds, said Commissioners Ronald L. Bowers and Gregory I. Snook.

Grimes had no cost estimates for a new training center, he said he believed the cost would be less than the $2.6 million training center built in Frederick County, Md.

Fire officials have looked at three potential sites for a center in the Hagerstown area. Grimes would not disclose the locations.

The city's training ground includes a five-story tower for practicing with ropes and ladder trucks, a burn building, a gas tanker for training in confined spaces, a manmade pond to practice pumping water from streams.

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