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Franklin County fire chiefs want to expand training center

May 23, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- For nearly five years, area firefighters have been honing their skills at the Franklin County Public Safety Training Center, and the county's Fire Chiefs Association wants to expand the training facilities there within the next few years.

A combination of state, county, municipal and private grants and donations helped get the center built and kept it running since October 2003, said Kenneth North, the association's training coordinator. He told a meeting of township officials from across the county this week that the association plans to add high-rise, vehicle rescue and other training stations at the center at 3075 Molly Pitcher Highway.

Planned additions to the center could cost $200,000 or more, North said. The high-rise fire tower would cost between $50,000 and $100,000, he said.

A simulator for propane tank fires will cost about $25,000 and a confined space rescue simulator about $15,000, North said. A trench rescue simulator will cost about $20,000 and a fire engine pump testing station about $40,000, he said.

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North said he hopes the additions are built in the next four years, but the association needs to raise capital above what it receives to run the center. The county donates about $13,000 per year to the center, about 10 cents per person in the county and most townships have been doing the same per capita donation for operational costs, he said.

Situated on five acres near the Franklin County Career and Technology Center, the training facility received its first big donation of $100,000 from the late Tony Gagaro in 1995, North told the township officials. A $600,000 state grant procured by state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, plus funding from the county and its 22 townships and boroughs made building the center possible, he said.

A classroom building was constructed by the Franklin County Builders Association, North said. An old fire engine also has been donated so one won't have to be taken out of service and driven to the center for training sessions, he said.

The central feature of the center is the two-story burn building, marked by triangles of soot extending upward from its windows and doors. The building has a number of advantages over the old training method of setting fire to a donated dilapidated building, North said.

"With an acquired structure, it takes me at least two weeks to get the building ready" by removing hazardous materials and other safety threats, North said. Getting the necessary approvals from state agencies, such as the Department of Environmental Protection, can take several more, he said.

The biggest advantage to the burn building is that it can be set ablaze time after time whenever convenient for the those undergoing training. As a whole, the center allows firefighters from Franklin and adjoining counties to train without the expense and time of traveling to Harrisburg, Pa., or other training sites, North said.

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