The idea is to provide a state-of-the-art training center that would be used by all of the fire departments in Franklin County.
Upon completion, scheduled for some time in 1999 or 2000, the county will have a training center featuring a classroom, a burn building that can be set ablaze repeatedly, a pit for confined space and trench rescue training, a vehicle fire pad and a rappelling tower, among other training aids.
Currently, local firefighters have to drive to a certification center in Harrisburg, Pa., which means wear and tear on equipment, apparatus that's out of service and firefighters that have to plan on being out of the county for a day, Baldwin said.
Training close to home is the primary reason the late Isadore A. Gargaro, a volunteer firefighter, donated $100,000 to Chambersburg Borough in 1995, said his wife, Lois Jean.
The money was also earmarked to establish a recruiting program and to set up a scholarship fund to provide young people with a higher level of education in fire suppression and training.
The association had planned to take over the borough's training site off Hollywell Avenue, but it would have been a poor investment since the site has limitations and fixing it up would have been costly, Baldwin said.
Though members of the fire chiefs association and county officials considered joining neighboring Washington County to build a regional training center in Maryland, it wouldn't solve the distance and time issues that Franklin County has been dealing with for years, especially for fire departments in the northern part of the county, Baldwin said.
Firefighting certification requirements also differ between states, he said.
"We're not against regionalization, but it has to make common sense. We're trying to provide for our own people," Baldwin said.
In many ways, the project has become regionalized within Franklin County. Once a plan designated for Chambersburg Borough, it has turned into a countywide approach, he said.
Fund-raising campaigns are being planned to gather the rest of the money and representatives of the fire chiefs association have asked the Commissioners to spend county funds from next year's budget.
A cooperative partnership with the career and technology center will allow students to build part of the center and then use it during the day, Baldwin said.
Firefighters, in turn, will have access to the center's classes and instructors.
"Our organization has tried to think outside the box," Baldwin said.