Ashe County Fire and Rescue Association, Inc. Builds New Training Facility
Ashe County is served by over a dozen non-profit Volunteer Fire Departments. The training and certification requirements for volunteer firefighters has amplified over time, causing more and more of the fire departments to attend training schools to keep their members up-to-date on mandated training. Often these schools require “live fire” training, meaning they must be conducted at a facility that can provide these simulations.
Since Ashe County had no training facilities, the local fire departments had to travel to nearby counties to receive the required training. Because of this, essential equipment and personnel were out of the County for periods of training.
The County manager and commissioners determined that the volunteer fire departments were a great asset to the citizens of Ashe County, and helped contain costs for these essential safety services. They proposed to build a fire training facility within the County that would meet the needs of all the volunteer fire departments. The County collects fire taxes from the citizens and contracts with the volunteer departments to provide the fire protection services.
The Fire Departments have an association, the Ashe County Fire and Rescue Association, Inc., and it was determined that this entity would be the vehicle through which the fire training facility would be provided. With WR-Martin’s assistance, the Association approached the USDA Rural Development Office in Jefferson about funding. They were able to obtain a low-interest rate, a long-term loan of $1,125,600, and a grant worth $49,400 to fund the project.
The fire training facility is being built on the site of a former local school that was torn down many years ago. The County owned the property and is giving it to the Association in light of the project initiative. The County will contract with the Association to provide the necessary fire training classes, and this contract will cover the annual debt service on the loan.
The facility will be innovative in that it will utilize steel shipping containers that can be altered to different configurations to simulate various training needs. The fires will be fed by natural gas, which is clean burning and cost effective. The facility will provide training and practice in arrival and set up at sites where drop tank usage is required, and the onsite classroom will improve the training experience. Fire Departments from several surrounding counties will be training at the new facility in the Town of West Jefferson, the pride of the Ashe County Fire and Rescue Association, Inc,. once construction is complete in late 2017.