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Morgantown Fire Department conducting training in residential areas; no cause for alarm

Morgantown Fire Department will conduct training exercises at several vacant properties around town, specifically at 248/250 Gem St., as well as 453 Pine St. and a location adjacent to the former Richwood Grill near the intersection of Richwood Avenue and Pearl Avenue. 

Residents are reminded that if firefighters are present at one of the above-mentioned training locations, there is no cause for alarm.  

Captain John Lemley with MFD said residents of those areas can expect to see fire apparatus parked along Richwood Avenue.  

The buildings are set back and below the level of the roadway so vehicles passing by may see a little more than the fire department vehicles.  

“Others may see firefighters stretching hose lines, raising ladders, removing simulated victims, as well as notice theatrical smoke issuing from doors or windows,” Lemley explained. 

The captain said the goal of training like this is to provide firefighters with practical skill training evolutions.  

“The hope is to develop knowledge, skills and abilities,” Lemley said, “or at least more proficient and better prepared for future fire-ground operations.” 

Training at residential locations is important because, as Lemley simply put, “these are the places we may be called upon to fight fires. Each single- or multiple-family dwelling has unique characteristics. Training in acquired structures enhances the training to operate in and around different building styles.” 

Currently, MFD doesn’t have a fire training facility that affords the ability to conduct training like this away from neighborhood residential buildings. 

Lemley said in the late 1960s, the city and the state worked together to build a combined city fire station and state fire training center which was called The Boulevard Station/WV State Fire Training Center.  

It was originally located on Monongahela Boulevard across from the current WV State Police Barracks, but the city shuttered fire operations there in the early 1970s and turned the building over to WVU. 

The university continued to operate the training facility through its Extension Service, but eventually chose to move the operation to Jackson’s Mill and convert the property to a soccer facility.  

“This was a major blow to local fire training for all fire, EMS and law enforcement agencies in this and surrounding counties,” Lemley said.    

For new probationary firefighter training, MFD recruits must travel to the United Technical Center (UTC) in Clarksburg, some 40 miles away.  

The captain said the UTC site has a small burn building and can accommodate elementary, fundamental live-fire training — but the distance creates some logistical issues for new hire training.  

That travel also makes it impossible for training veteran fire personnel who are typically part of on-duty crews needed to maintain a reasonably short response to emergency calls. Lemley explained training personnel while off-duty would generate a significant overtime expense for the department. 

The issue is not being ignored, however. Lemley said city and fire department management have an eye on these issues and are working to find monies and property to accommodate a more reasonable nearby training center location. 

While a training center would provide easier access to firefighter training, Lemley said that even with a well-designed-and-constructed Morgantown Fire Department Fire Training Center, buildings in the area that are under construction, renovation, or prepared for demolition will always provide for enhanced training opportunities. 

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