State fire training center closes

-A A +A
By Leslie Moore


They learned how to navigate a collapsed building, manage the scene of an airplane crash and how to rescue someone trapped under ice. But Campbellsville and Taylor County Fire & Rescue's firefighters will have to rely on mostly in-house training now that State Fire Rescue Training Area 14 has closed.

Campbellsville Fire & Rescue Chief Kyle Smith told Campbellsville City Council members on Monday that he learned the center would close in an email he received from the Kentucky Fire Commission in early March.

He said Area 14 provided training to 10 counties, including Taylor, and those counties have been redistributed to other areas. He said the State Fire Commission plans to have the center appraised so it can sell the property.

Council member Randy Herron said the center is a training asset for the community and he would hate to see the community lose it.

He made a motion for the city to research what options it has to keep the center, including buying the property if possible. The property once served as Campbellsville Water & Sewer Co.'s waste treatment plant before it was remodeled into the center. The property was sold to the state fire commission in 2001.

Because the property is located in a flood plain, if the property is damaged, it would be difficult to rebuild. Therefore, that significantly decreases the property's value.

"It would be ideal if the state would give it to us," Herron said. "Whether they will or not, that's another thing."

Campbellsville Mayor Tony Young said he has sent a letter to the fire commission asking that the city be allowed "first shot" at the property.

Smith said it would be in the city and county's emergency services agencies' best interest to be able to continue training at the center. He said it can be very difficult for firefighters if they don't have a location to do specific training.

"For example, it's hard to advance a hose line to the second floor of a structure if you don't have a building with a set of stairs, and it's hard to utilize the aerial ladder for raising and getting off on a roof if you don't have a good place to do that," Smith said. "And we have this at the training center here in Campbellsville."

Smith said the center has traditionally been used for about half of the firefighters' required training. He said first-time volunteer firefighters must complete 150 hours of training to be certified and 20 hours each year after that to maintain certification. Full-time career firefighters are required to complete 400 hours of initial training for their certification and must complete 100 hours of training every year after that.

"Firefighting is a business that I don't care if you've been in it for a year or 50 years, you're always learning and you're always training," Smith said. "The business is always changing."

Former senior instruction coordinator Charlie Shaw, who retired from the center in January, said the center is one of the premiere training sites in the state. He said fire departments, EMS and law enforcement agencies use it all the time.

"It's a mini Disney World for emergency services," Shaw said.

Now that the center has closed, Shaw said he is considering purchasing the property himself and opening a firefighter museum. He said he already owns many collectibles that could be displayed to the public and would also allow the facility to continue to be used for emergency training.

"Chief Shaw has dedicated the last 40 years of his life to helping people," Smith said. "He made this place what it is today."

Shaw said the property holds much sentimental value for him. He has much concern for maintaining the memorial for fallen firefighter Charles Sparks as well as a walking track dedicated to former office coordinator Jamia Skaggs.

Local residents frequently use the property for fishing in its lake and feeding the several ducks and geese that have made the center their home.

"There's somebody down there all the time, feeding the geese and ducks and fishing," Shaw said.