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Ritchie, Little and Griffo secure $100,000 grant for fire training center

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HAMMOND – St. Lawrence County volunteer firefighters are one step closer to getting a new fire training center.

State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, announced Thursday that she, along with state Sen. Elizabeth O’C. Little, R-Queensbury, and Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, have secured a $100,000 state grant to help replace the aging fire training tower for volunteer firefighters.

The dilapidated training center in West Potsdam, which saw over 300 fires in 30 years, was torn down four years ago after the structure was condemned, Fire Training Center Fundraising Co-Chairman Robert E. Kerr said Thursday.

“The state mandates that volunteers undergo at least two live burnings as part of their training,” Executive Board of the County Fire Training Center Chairman Ronald W. Bertram said.

Classes of 20 student firefighters, four instructors and a safety team of six experienced firefighters, two fire engines, a pumper and an advanced life support ambulance must now travel outside the county to obtain the mandated training they need before they can enter burning buildings.

“Volunteers from 40 departments serving in 32 towns and 14 villages across St. Lawrence County must now travel to Jefferson, Lewis or Franklin County for training,” Mrs. Ritchie said at a news conference at the fire hall. “We all know that firefighters are the backbones in our communities that keep us safe. We should be doing whatever we can to make it easier for them instead of making tougher.”

The St. Lawrence County Fire Training Center board estimates the new facility will cost $450,000. The group has raised over $60,000 through community and business donations. Last year, with help from a $42,000 community development grant from the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency, the group installed a foundation for the structure. Training Center volunteers said they hope to use the $100,000 to purchase building materials to complete the second phase of the project. The third phase is constructing the building.

“The $100,000 is a big step in the right direction towards our overall goal,” said Mr. Kerr. “We’re close to completing the structure within our two-year goal.”

The new facility on Blanchard Road, West Potsdam, will provide experience in basement and second-floor fires.

For more information or to make a donation to the fire training center, www.firetrainingcenter.org.

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