Morgantown, W.Va. – Firefighters across the state will soon be able to better handle a variety of emergency situations as the West Virginia University Fire Service Extension expands their footprint by bringing new, mobile equipment and training to volunteer units in rural communities.
According to Mark Lambert, director of the Fire Service Extension, the ability to reach more firefighters directly in their communities addresses a critical, unique training need for the majority of West Virginia.
“An overwhelming majority of firefighters in West Virginia are part of volunteer companies in rural parts of the state, and they are instrumental in protecting the property and livelihood of many residents,” said Lambert. “Often times it’s very difficult to get to training because of funding and the distance they’d have to travel to reach a central location — we simply need to adapt and bring the necessary training to them and make it easier for them to protect their communities.”
Part of that includes a new, state-of-the-art mobile fire training unit to augment the one unit the Fire Service Extension already has. One of the units will be positioned in the southern part of the state, allowing trainers to easily adapt and offer additional basic training to busy volunteer departments at their local stations.
Lambert explained that the mobile fire trainers are safe, adaptable and realistic — smoke, flames, sights, sounds and obstacles present firefighters a chance to sharpen their skills and an observer can shut down and ventilate benign smoke from the interior in under a minute making it safe environment to train in.
Also augmenting training capabilities for the whole state are several mobile training props that can simulate hazardous material spills, car fires and a helicopter crash. Lambert noted that a set of oil and natural gas fire training equipment is not only a new addition, but necessary for much of West Virginia.
“There are still many oil and natural gas wells operating around the state, and emergency responders need training on how to handle a potential emergency at a drilling pad until industry personnel can get there,” said Lambert. “These are the only props of their kind in the state, and we want to get as many firefighters as possible trained to keep themselves, and those they serve, safe.”
Overall, Lambert noted that all the new additions to training allow them to reach more firefighters than ever before, meaning that the state’s residents will be better protected with an experienced crew of firefighters in their community, no matter how large or small.
Funding for the new equipment comes from two Federal Emergency Management Agency grants totaling over $990,000, and donors matched some funds on the natural gas training equipment.
“The gracious match by the donors was a big help in acquiring the oil and natural gas props,” Lambert added.
For more information about the Fire Service Extension or to find out about trainings in your area, call 304-269-0875.
The WVU Extension Service is a primary outreach division of West Virginia University. With offices in each of the state’s 55 counties, Extension faculty and staff develop and deliver programs in leadership, rural and community-based economic development, youth development, workforce development and health education.
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