STANTON TOWNSHIP — Imagine being a new firefighter hearing your first call. You’re nearby. You flip on the lights. Get to the station for the truck. Drive the truck to the fire. You’re one of the first people there. The nerves. The anticipation. The feeling of pride for helping your community. Then you realize there’s nothing you can do because there’s no one else there yet with the needed experience.
What is that needed experience? Seeing and working with a live fire. Before now, firefighters in the Western U.P. literally had no experience with live fires after completing the needed training. That all changed this fall when the region’s first live fire training facility was erected in Stanton.
“Live fire training is important for a firefighter to understand the dangers,” said Jon Stone, the driving force behind the training facility, one of the lead trainers for new firefighters and a member of the Stanton Fire Department. “Having this regional training facility will result in better training of our firefighters and directly result in saved lives in our community.”
The facility was made possible by a $131,740 grant from the Portage Health Foundation, $10,000 grant from the Copper Country Fire Fighters Association and $25,000 from the Michigan Fire Fighter Training Council. Additional help from local companies Anderson Trucking & Excavating, G&D Contracting, Great Lakes Mineral, Integrity Custom Concrete, KTA Plumbing & Heating, Superior Sand & Gravel and TPS Construction allowed the facility to expand to allow more training opportunities than originally planned, including a second floor that will allow unique ladder simulations.
Prior to this training facility being built, the closest facilities were at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay.
“It was simply too much to ask of our volunteer firefighters to drive to those facilities for live fire training,” Stone said. “Now we can offer that same experience close to home. In addition to serving departments in the four-county area of the Copper Country, I’ve already heard from other departments in the central and western U.P. who would like to utilize the new facility.”
The first live fire training took place in December. A video of that experience can be found on the Portage Health Foundation website and social media outlets. Over the coming months there are seven trainings scheduled at the new facility, and the next fire school for new firefighters will begin in fall 2020.