By: Kate Snyder-Zanesville Times Recorder
ZANESVILLE – The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is providing $1 million in grant money to train firefighters throughout the state.
The funds will be folded into the State Marshal’s Firefighter I training grant program, which provides Firefighter I training courses to people free of charge.
The departments taking advantage of the program will mostly be volunteer or combination forces, said Chief Brent Gates, from the New Concord Fire Department. The paid and career firefighters will already have had the training and the national certification that comes with completing the course.
The $1 million is estimated to pay for about 1,000 people to go through the course and become certified. There are about 1,200 fire departments in Ohio, and 70 percent of those are staffed by volunteers.
“A fire doesn’t care if a person’s paid or unpaid. A fire’s going to be the same (no matter) who shows up at the door,” Gates said. “So (training) is very important.”
Volunteer firefighters are required to take is a 36-hour training course, said State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers, and is “a good orientation” to the field. The Firefighter I course is more than 100 hours and includes almost everything that could happen and what firefighters would need to know. It can cost $1,000 per person, and not every person can afford that, nor can every fire department afford that for what could be it’s entire force.
“In southeast Ohio, the fire departments’ budgets are very, very tight,” Gates said.
Increased training will decrease injuries and fatalities in fire, Flowers said. Injuries have already decreased, and he and Buehrer, CEO of the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, believe it is because of increased training – in 2013, there were 105 deaths from fires, and while Flowers said that’s still too many, he said the rate was at a 27-year low.
Buehrer said the $1 million was part of the Another Billion Back plan, which includes returning $1 billion in rebates to Ohio employers.
Flowers was having trouble finding resources to support training, Buehrer said, so the bureau provided some, especially because firefighting is an exceptionally dangerous field and often lives depend on it.
“I think all of us want (firefighters) to have the best kind of training,” he said.