Fire training building ready for dedication

October 10, 2003|by DON AINES

The centerpiece of the Franklin County Public Safety Training Center will be set on fire Saturday morning, the first of many training burns at the live fire training building, according to Ken North.

The building was smoldering Thursday afternoon in preparation for the 10 a.m. dedication at the center behind the Franklin County Career and Technology Center on Loop Road in Guilford Township, Pa.

North, the training coordinator for the Franklin County Fire Chiefs' Association, said the fires Thursday were to dry out the cinder blocks of the two-story structure so they will not crack when bigger blazes are set during training exercises.


The conflagration Saturday will be considerably bigger, North said.

"It's going to be our first training scenario burn," he said.

While the roof of the building is made of high technology tiles that quickly shed heat like the tiles of a space shuttle, the fires inside will be decidedly low-tech and low cost - piles of wood put to the match.

"We considered propane, but this is more realistic and a lot cheaper," North said. Local businesses are offering their wooden pallets to keep the fires burning, he said.

"Back in the '60s and '70s, when I was a chief, we dreamed about this pretty hard, but we could never swing the financing," said Jim Picking, former chief of the Marion Volunteer Fire Co.

A firefighter since he was 18, Picking, 65, is the project coordinator.

"I've been in construction all my life and I've been in the fire service all my life, too," Picking said.

While firefighters from the county's 18 fire companies have wanted a training center for decades, it was a $100,000 donation from the late Chambersburg businessman Tony Gargaro that got the ball rolling about six years ago, North said.

Franklin County pledged $1 for each of the approximately 125,000 people living in the county, with each county municipality matching the county's pledge, for a total of about $250,000. State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, helped get a $600,000 grant from the state, and businesses, community organizations and individuals contributed about $250,000 more for a total of $1.2 million, according to North.

In-kind contributions also were made, notably the construction of the shell for the classroom building by the Franklin County Builders Association, North said. Other contractors and individuals have contributed time and talent to the center, which also includes a spacious storage building.

North said the land is being leased from the technology center for $1 per year.

The burn building is the most expensive part of the project at $450,000, North said. It will be used to train firefighters and ambulance personnel in attacking fires, ladder practice, search and rescue, rope drills and confined space rescue.

"This first year is going to be a learning experience. We don't know what the actual operations costs are going to be," North said.

North said the association still is accepting tax-deductible donations of cash and in-kind contributions to help finish and run the center.

The center eventually could be self-supporting, North said. The priority is to provide free or low-cost training to county fire companies, but use of the facility will be offered to companies from Fulton, Adams, Cumberland and other counties in Pennsylvania and Maryland that now have to travel an hour or more to train at a burn building.

North said many area industries also require employees to receive fire training, another possible source of income.

Those attending Saturday's dedication and demonstration are asked to park behind the technology center. Refreshments will be served following the ceremony and demonstration.

Local elected officials, representatives from all of the county's fire companies and the honor guard from the Blue Ridge Fire and Rescue Co. are scheduled to be at the ceremony.

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