Fire college for Huntsville?

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Huntsville-Lake of Bays Fire Chief Steve Hernen has a plan up his sleeve. He’s hoping to start a fire college right here in Huntsville.

The idea is to turn part of the fire department’s existing infrastructure into a training college.“What we’re looking at doing is basically using the existing resources of the Town of Huntsville’s Fire Department to maximize it,” he said.

Hernen said it’s not a new concept, but it is a way to generate more revenue, and getting something back for training individuals, especially since many of them end up leaving for larger cities.

“We have a lot of kids who want to come here and be a volunteer firefighter. They apply to us because they can come here and be a volunteer, as they call them, they get all the training, they get all the certificates and then, good on them, they leave because they’re trying to get that career job,” Hernen told members of Huntsville’s Economic Development committee on November 26.

“So what we looked at is the thousands of dollars we’re spending every year teaching people who are leaving the community in nine, ten months,” he said. According to Hernen the fire department here gives new recruits the exact same education others are paying for in other areas. He said it costs the fire department an estimated $7,000 to train a new recruit, while private colleges such as The Fire & Emergency Services Training Institute (FESTI), located in the Greater Toronto Area, charge an estimated $15,000 for a 14-week course.

So as a manager I’m just looking at this saying, ‘ok we gotta change the way we’re thinking here and is there an opportunity for us to recoup our cost? Huntsville- Lake of Bays Fire Chief Steve Hernen

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Chief Steve Hernen speaks to members of Huntsville’s Economic Development Committee, November 26.

Prompted by a question from committee, Hernen said the existing school in Gravenhurst is the Ontario Fire College, which is different from what is being proposed in that it teach individuals who are already firefighters and services municipal fire departments only.

Hernen anticipated anywhere from 12 to 24 students could be trained at a time here, and they would contribute to the local economy be requiring lodging, food, etc.

The proposal was well received by committee. Hernen said the business plan is still being tweaked and will be presented to council in future.


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