Firefighters raise training concerns
By MICHELLE GANASSI
Daily American Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 23, 2008 12:11 AM EST
BERLIN — Ed Mann, Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner, paid a visit to Somerset County Tuesday to address concerns about training and other state requirements.
Firefighters from nearly every department in the county filled the community room in Berlin and questioned Mann on topics ranging from training requirements to state loans to working with municipalities for funding.
Mann told the firefighters that decisions made on different issues are often based on legislation and national requirements.
“We’re not going to please everybody,” he said.
One issue raised was with training requirements. The basic essentials class, which is an introductory class for firefighters, went from 88 hours to 166 hours within the past two years. The state started to using the Delmar program, which is a company that produces a firefighting training program. The program is broken into modules for the firefighters to complete and there is not a set time for the firefighter to complete them.
Rockwood Fire Chief Jim Miller said it is hard for him to tell a new member with a family he has to attend fundraisers, work night and take 166 hours of training.
“We need help getting volunteers and we are doing the exact opposite,” he said.
Mann said having properly trained firefighters is his main concern. He said course requirements are being reviewed and Delmar is coming out with another edition of its book
Some want to be able to certify for the Firefighter I distinction after completing essentials. Mann said when they did this in the past there was a failure rate of 60 percent. The Firefighter I program is a nationally-certified firefighting program.
Others raised concerns about chief officers being required to be trained at different levels of the National Incident Management System, which is a program for planning disaster responses. Mann said he can help departments determine their level of training.
“If you are going to be the chief you ought to be trained,” he said. “You can be a fire chief or just play at being a fire chief.”
Consolidation, the state loan programs grants and working with municipalities were also discussed at the meeting. The event was held by the Somerset County Fire Chiefs Association.