State money to help volunteer fire department build new burn building

The state has kicked in $100,000 of the estimated $450,000 needed for the training building

The North Country This Week

ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY, N.Y. — St. Lawrence County's volunteer firefighters are a step closer to getting their new $450,000 fire training tower with the announcement of a $100,000 infusion from the state.

After being set ablaze more than 300 times over about 30 years, fire officials said they needed to replace the the George E. Brigg Fire Training Center in West Potsdam because it was no longer safe.

About four years ago, before a live fire training, "an OFPC boss was here to observe a Firefighter I class and inspected the building," said Dale Gardner of Canton, co-chair of the St. Lawrence County Fire Training Facility, Inc., the organization formed to get the building put up. "He took one look at the ceiling and said, 'You're done. You're not going in there. It's not safe. This building is coming down."

A fund drive began last year to replace it. State Senators Patty Ritchie, Betty Little and Joe Griffo made the announcement of the $100,000 in funding last week.

In the meantime firefighters have had to travel outside the county to get the vital training of working with a live fire, but under controlled training conditions.

"While other parts of the state have paid professional fire departments to respond to emergencies, St. Lawrence County relies on unpaid volunteers who leave their families at all hours of the day and night to help their neighbors when disaster strikes," Senator Griffo said.

"As the largest geographic county in New York State, encompassing many sparsely populated rural communities, traveling for educational training can be a real hardship for the more than 40 different volunteer fire companies that serve the 32 towns and 14 villages across St. Lawrence County."

St. Lawrence County Fire Training Fundraising Co-Chairs Dale Gardner and Robert Kerr expressed gratitude to the legislators for their help in obtaining funds for a new facility.

Since the closure firefighting classes that had used the West Potsdam fire training building have been held around the North Country, at similar facilities in Westville, Martinsburg, Dry Hill and Fort. As tough as it has been to get young people to commit to training to be a volunteer firefighter, the travel proved to be too much for some of the trainees.

"Each class is about 20 students. There would be four instructors, and a safety team of six experienced firefighters," said Gardner in our story last year.

"We would take two engines, a pumper, and an ALS ambulance. All that had to go to each training fire."

The new facility will have more rooms and provide experience in fighting fires inside basements and second-floor fires.

A year ago the total cost of the new building was estimated at $450,000

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