Booming firefighter training center | State and region


The Fayette County Fire Training Center is growing.

Around 20 members of the Chemours Emergency Response Team, representing chemical company The Chemours Company, took part in ongoing training at the training center near Gauley Bridge on Thursday.

On Saturday, firefighters from another department in Kanawha County are to undergo training at the site.

Chemours emergency response team leader Phillip Fout, as well as assistant chief of the Gauley Bridge Volunteer Fire Department, said the Chemours unit’s involvement on Thursday was part of a course annual retraining required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). According to Fout, the crews reviewed their response skills in a Class A burn building, in which indoor combustion is simulated, and Flammable Liquids and Gases (FLAG) training.

“For the business, it refreshes our entire team to give them the expertise, knowledge and confidence in case we need to use our skills on the job,” Fout said. “For the association, it’s good that the training center uses it. It also helps to strengthen the knowledge of our instructors, because in Fayette County, we are all volunteer firefighters and we normally do residential-type structural firefighting, so they’re not used to the industrial side because obviously we don’t have a lot of industry in the county.

“So it’s good learning for the instructors as well, to deepen their knowledge.”

From the perspective of his county and his business, Fout says he is happy to see the training center continue to grow. “The facility is growing rapidly, and that’s thanks to all the volunteers we have around the county putting in their time. Today, all of the instructors took time off to make this happen for our team. That means a lot for me personally that they’re willing to go the extra mile.

“Usually our training takes place on the weekends. The volunteers work all week and train on the weekends. The fact that they give their time to come and help us today means a lot.”

According to John McGinnis, Oak Hill Fire Department instructor and vice president of the training center, local fire departments with instructors on site Thursday included Ansted, Fayetteville, Oak Hill, Gauley Bridge, Montgomery, Armstrong Creek and Gauley River.

McGinnis said Chemours is one of three different groups that will use the practice site this month, which is located on land donated by Brookfield Renewable that once housed the Hawks Nest golf course.

“You need to have that many hours of continuing education per year,” McGinnis explained. “Now with Chief Fout (Head of the Chemours team but also one of the training center instructors) it’s easier for both of them to come here and get out of it really fast. He can manage both operations at the same time.”

“That’s one thing about this operation; we’re spread across the county and that makes everything easier because we’re all operating under one,” McGinnis continued. “The bottom line is that our training hours where we have joint training, that covers our ISO, which is going to keep homeowners insurance lower so that benefits the whole county.

“We’ve already established it in the southern part of West Virginia. It’s thriving.”

Fees received from teams traveling from outside Fayette County for training are transferred into a fund to purchase supplies and equipment for the center, McGinnis said. For example, “OSB isn’t cheap right now, it’s like $60 a sheet. Just little things like that that require outside resources to put money back into this place.”

Shannon Estep, chief of the Armstrong Creek Volunteer Fire Department, echoed McGinnis’ sentiments on the importance of the training center at the local level.

“It helps our rates by having this training center (in ISO ratings for home insurance),” Estep said. “Here, it’s a big plus.

“What they (the residents) get in return saves them hundreds of dollars on their insurance premiums.”

Mark Bass, president of the Fayette County Firefighters Association, said work on the training center is progressing, although the process is slowing down at times.

The next phase of construction will include a new building that will serve as a garage for the trucks that have been donated, as well as possibly offices and a concrete slab on which to conduct propane training, “so we won’t have to continue to dragging stuff back and forth.”

The Fayette County Firefighters Association is set to bid on those projects, using money from last year’s budget.

“It’s a work in progress, as we’ve always said,” Bass said of the center.

Along with upcoming projects, efforts are also being made to secure the site’s water supply, Bass said.

And representatives of the training center said Thursday they hoped to speak with Fayette County officials to discuss the importance of the training center to the county and its residents.

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