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Construction Begins On Western Massachusetts Firefighting Training Center

Structures used for training firefighters at the Springfield campus of the Massachusetts Dept. of Fire Services.
Structures used for training firefighters at the Springfield campus of the Massachusetts Dept. of Fire Services.
Structures used for training firefighters at the Springfield campus of the Massachusetts Dept. of Fire Services.
Credit WAMC
Structures used for training firefighters at the Springfield campus of the Massachusetts Dept. of Fire Services.

A new training facility for firefighters is under construction in western Massachusetts.  The new center will bring the resources of the state’s Department of Fire Services to area fire departments that depend on volunteer or on-call firefighters.

     The new state - of- the -art center under construction in Springfield will be the western Massachusetts base for all of the resources of the state Department of Fire Services. It includes training, code enforcement, and arson investigations, according to state Fire Marshall Stephen Coan.

  "It is huge for the western Mass. fire service because it will provide the opportunity for both hands-on and classroom training without having to travel to the eastern part of the state to the Stow facility."

   The $13.4 million project is being built at the former Springfield Fire Training Center, which the state purchased from the city last year for $2 million.  The Springfield department will partner with the state to offer training classes for career and volunteer firefighters.  Officials say there is a statewide waiting list for firefighter training.

   In addition to reducing the backlog for firefighter training, the center will house investigative and other resources for area fire departments.

  Coan said fire chiefs in western Massachusetts advocated for decades to get a training facility located in the region.

   " I am in my 38th year with the Department of Fire Services and one of my first jobs was to write a master plan to develop regional fire training facilities. No one ever said it was going to come quick," said Coan.

   Officials spent years pursuing a site for a fire training center at the sprawling Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, but the option fell through.

   The Springfield Fire Training Center was built in the 1970s, according to Springfield Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant.

  "We trained a lot of firefighters here. Buildings get older and the cost of maintenance keeps going up. Now we will share this with the state and have a state-of-the-art training facility for our own firefighters and others."

   Southwick Fire Chief Richard Anderson said the new training center will be a boon.

  "For years we have been unable to properly train our people," Anderson said. " Now we can get live-fire training that is hard to do on a volunteer basis.  We can do haz-mat. It is a whole different world today and this is going to help."

     The Southwick department has four full-time staff members, but heavily relies on volunteers to fight fires in the town of 10,000 people.

      An administrative building on the grounds has been torn down. A new structure that will house offices for the fire services and classrooms is being constructed.   Two buildings, including a tower, used for live-fire training are being refurbished.

Copyright 2014 WAMC Northeast Public Radio

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.

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