Local firefighters bringing a national-level educational event to Upshur County this month

BUCKHANNON – A local group of firefighters is introducing an affordable, educational fire conference to Buckhannon, West Virginia this month.

Captain Joey Baxa with the Buckhannon Fire Department said the Country Roads Fire Conference will take place Jan. 13 through. Jan. 15 at the Brushy Fork Event Center.

“We want to do this here because in my traveling and teaching — along with some of the other guys traveling around taking classes — we’ve realized how much these conferences can actually bring into a local economy,” Baxa said. “This being its first year, ours isn’t going to be huge. But some of these get a few hundred people — and that means a few hundred people will be spending nights in hotel rooms and going downtown to some of the restaurants and bars, so people are going to put money into our local economy for an event that’s never been here.”

The Country Roads Fire Conference is modeled after similar events from across the country, just in a smaller venue.

“This is something we’ve created, but we’re patterning it after other events across the United States,” Baxa said. “Some of them have been very successful, like the ones where I teach in Columbus, Baltimore or Nashville. They have one at the convention center in Columbus, if that tells you how big it is.”

Baxa said they sought to have a more localized conference to help mitigate the cost and encourage West Virginia firefighters to attend.

“It’s not about shoving people through a class, in and out,” Baxa said. “This type of event is where people really get to make some good connections with people outside of the state. Each of the speakers will have a minimum of three hours, although we have a couple of people doing some smaller blocks. This is an educational conference, especially for those who have never traveled outside of the state for education in the fire service.”

Baxa said it can be difficult to send multiple firefighters from one station to large events because traveling and attending some of the bigger conferences can be expensive.

“If you look up the price of going to some of these major conferences, you look at what it costs to get in and listen to the speakers, and then you look at what they would pay in a hotel and in travel, and you’re going to pay over $1,000 a person traveling to some of these events,” Baxa said. “We send people to events like that, and it’s a worthwhile investment, but it is also only one person or two people that you’re able to send. So we’re trying to bring that level of education to the fire service in West Virginia.”

Fire departments located in Upshur County will receive a discounted rate to attend the conference.

“The price we’re charging in-county departments is $65,” Baxa said. “They pay more than $65 to go to every other conference in this state; they pay more than $65 to send somebody to a four-hour class at some of the other fire schools. They’re getting national-level education experts in our field, people who have been part of designing studies and designing the equipment that we use.”

The Country Roads Fire Conference Facebook event page has a link to purchase tickets to the event.

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