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Buckhannon Fire Department Capt. Joey Baxa attended the Jan. 11 Upshur County Commission meeting to brief the commissioners on the construction of the new fire training facility. / (Photo by Monica Zalaznik)

City fire captain briefs county on progress of area firefighter training facility

BUCKHANNON – The new Upshur County firefighter training facility will allow local and neighboring fire departments to complete training more efficiently and increase their ISO ratings, a representative from the Buckhannon Fire Department said.

Buckhannon Fire Department Capt. Joey Baxa attended the Jan. 11 Upshur County Commission meeting to brief the commissioners on the construction of the new facility. The site was a collaborative effort between the City of Buckhannon and the county commission, according to a previous article.

“When the city bought the property on Mud Lick Road, they had some extra buildings and some extra property, and we always talked about building a training facility for not just the Buckhannon Fire Department but for the county,” Baxa said.

“The police department sectioned off some of the property for a rifle range, a pistol range and an impound lot, and then [the city] jointly gave us the building that used to be the offices used by the Waste Department with their garages and the flat area behind it, and that will be the site of the live burn training,” he added.

The site will be a Class A facility, which means it will burn organic materials like wood and straw and will be about two or three stories.

“It’ll have about six different types of burns in it, and we will be fully capable of holding all basic firefighter trainings, so Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2,” Baxa said. “Regionally, the closest ones to us currently are at the Bridgeport Fire Department, and then there’s a facility down in Fayette County.”

Other training sites nearby include one located in the Clarksburg United Technical Center that has a single burn room, and a tower/mobile unit that is housed at the West Virginia University Fire Service extension at Jackson’s Mill.

“They all have their pros and cons, but we feel what we are building is the best thing for us because it’ll meet the ISO requirements for a training facility, so everybody in the county should be able to receive an ISO credit from that,” Baxa said. “You will automatically see a betterment of the ISO score just because that facility is here, and then if they use the facility and they get their 16 hours per member facility training, they’ll get even more credit towards their ISO score.”

Baxa said an Insurance Services Office rating, referred to as ISO, is an insurance company’s rating for a fire department.

“Not all insurance companies go by it, but some of them do – it’s more geared towards commercial than residential properties,” Baxa said. “The last time I took a class that dove into the training requirements for an ISO facility training, they told us it actually amounted to about a third of your points for that category, so that’s a third of the points that we can’t even get right now because there is no facility.”

The facility will also help cut back on travel time for new volunteer firefighters trying to complete their training.

“I see it as a way to help stop the leak of volunteer firefighters in the area because right now, to take your basic firefighter training, the closest place you could travel is Jackson’s Mill,” Baxa said. “That doesn’t sound too far from where we’re sitting right now, but if you go to Banks District, Selbyville or Ellamore, you’re talking another 15 to 30 minutes, so I think it’s going to make training more accessible.”

“We should be a lot more flexible with scheduling that training,” he added.

The location of the facility has been staked off, and they have a rough design, but it is still a work in progress.

“It’s not final by any stretch of the imagination, but inside that building, we’ve already built a mock ranch-style house, so the police department can use it for clearing rooms (trainings) and things like that, but we’re using it for search drills,” Baxa said. “We’re holding a class there tomorrow (Friday, Jan. 12), and it will be the first class we’ve held there, and we have an instructor coming from Charlotte, North Carolina, and Ann Arbor, Michigan, to lead that class.”

The Buckhannon Fire Department plans to make the facility available for any firefighter who needs or wants further training.

“Our goal is to make this accessible to everybody,” Baxa said. “I’m sure with it being city property, there’s going to be some balance as to who has to be on-site whenever it’s being used, just to protect both the county’s investment and the city’s investment, but the goal is to make this widely accessible for anybody, especially inside Upshur County, or anyone that runs mutual and automatic aid with us.”

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