Pennsylvania Firefighters Stuck with Deteriorating Training Building

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JOHN LATIMER
The Lebanon Daily News

Lebanon County's firefighters are sounding the alarm about the deteriorated condition of the county's fire-training building in South Lebanon Township.

Chuck Killian and Ron Miller of the Lebanon County Firefighters Association brought the problem to the attention of the Lebanon County Board of Commissioners Thursday.

Currently, the building can be used for non-fire exercises, but it has been out of commission for live fire training since the spring, said Killian, association president.

The men said they weren't expecting money from the county, but they wanted to raise public awareness about the condition of the building, located at the Fire Training Center behind the Lebanon County Career and Technology Center.

"We are just here to express where we stand as an organization, where we stand with the fire-school grounds, and if anybody has deep pockets, we will take it," Killian said.

Some of the problems with the concrete-block building trace back to its construction in 2000, when two foundations were poured because the building was built on top of bedrock, which was too expensive to remove, Killian explained.

From the outset, the building has had leaks, and water eventually seeped into the insulation behind the heat-proof tiles on the walls. A pattern of freezing and thawing of the water trapped in the insulation went undetected last winter and loosened many of the tiles.

The building is an essential training component of the county's emergency-response preparedness, Killian told the commissioners.

In a typical year, he said, the county's 45 fire companies conduct more than 5,100 hours of training there.

Others, including the county HazMat team, state police and students from the technology center, train at the building, too.

"That school is used heavily down there," said Killian, a volunteer with Lebanon's Rescue Hose Fire Co. "On a conservative basis, we're figuring about 23,000 man-hours of training has been held down there just this year alone."

Without a building to conduct live-fire training operations, Killian said, local fire companies have had to travel to other sites, including Lancaster County and HACC's fire school in Harrisburg. Both facilities charge several hundred dollars for the training opportunity, which had been free at the county's fire school, he said.

Miller, the former chief of Ebenezer Fire Co., oversees the county's fire-training programs. He was also involved in fundraising when the building was constructed. It cost $191,000, about $50,000 of which was contributed by municipalities and organizations, he told the commissioners.

"Unfortunately, when the building was built, the expectation was hopefully to achieve 20 years of service, and we could have done that, absent the leaks," Miller said.

A committee researching options estimated repairing the existing structure could cost as much as $150,000 and replacing it would cost at least $500,000. Miller attributed the cost increase to new building standards in fire-school construction.

The firefighters have not decided how to proceed, but Killian said no grant money is available from the state or federal governments for training buildings.

"It all starts with training," he said. "If you don't get training you can't go fight fires. And why they don't give us money - I'm not sure."

In a show of solidarity, county Emergency Management Agency Director Dan Kauffman accompanied Miller and Killian Thursday.

"If we are going to go out and try and find funding for this, I think we look better as a community if we all agree that this is a priority and that we can all stand behind the same project, " he said.

If the firefighters want county funding, the commissioners told Killian and Miller, they must make a request before budget hearings begin next month.

Copyright 2009 Lebanon Daily News
All Rights Reserved
September 24, 2009

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I STAND BEHIND WHAT CHUCK & RON ARE SAYING ABOUT THE LEBANON COUNTY FIRE SCHOOL BURN BUILDING UNSAFE FOR FIREFIGHTERS TO TRAIN IN.THAT'S WHY WE NEED TO GO OUT SIDE OF LEBANON COUNTY TO TRAIN ARE FIREFIGHTERS. WE HAVE BURN BUILDING IN ARE BACK YARD TO TRAIN. iT IS TIME FOR THE COMMISSIONERS TO START HELPING LOCAL FIRE COMPANIES IN LEBANON COUNTY. WE ARE THE ONES SAVING LIVES AND HOMES IN LEBANON COUNTY. LEBANON COUNTY COMMISSIONERS NEED TO JUST SPEND MONEY TO FIX THE BUILDING AND REBUILD THE BUILDING. IN TODAY'S CODES LEBANON COUNTY FIREFIGHTERS COULDN'T BE LEFT OUT IN THE COLD BECAUSE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS WANT TO BE RUDE TO THE FIREFIGHTERS IN THE COUNTY. THEY NEED TO HELP OUT ARE BRAVE FIREFIGHTER IN LEBANON COUNTY .IT'S TIME STOP GIVING MONEY TO THE POLICE DEPT IN LEBANON COUNTY. THE POLICE NEED SOME MONEY TOO BUT SO DOES THE EMS. THEY NEED TO DIG DOWN IN THIER POCKETS AND GET THE MONEY TO FIX THE BURN BUILDING SO FIREFIGHTERS HAVE A PLACE TO TRAIN. MORE HOUSES ARE BURNING DOWN BECAUSE FIREFIGHTERS DON'T HAVE THE PLACE FOR TRAINING NOW.IT'S TIME FOR THE COUNTY COMMISSIONERS TO DO THEY'RE JOBS AND STILL WE LEBANON COUNTY LOSE FIREFIGHTERS IN THE LINE OF DUTY DUE TO DEATH.THEN WHAT COUNTY COMISSIONERS WANT TO DO IS BE WITH THOSE FIREFIGHTERS LYING OVER HEAD. IM A FIREFIGHTER IN LEBANON COUNTY TO. I WILL NOT BE THE NEXT BROTHER TO DIE IN THE LINE OF DUTY BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF TRAINING.

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