SMITHFIELD – Members of northern Rhode Island’s federal and state delegation gathered this week at a new fire training center slated to be utilized by several fire districts in the region – including North Smithfield, Harrisville and Oakland-Mapleville.
U.S. Senator Jack Reed; Speaker of the House K. Joseph Shekarchi and Rep. Stephen Casey presented a $50,000 legislative grant to the Greater Woonsocket Fire Chiefs Mutual Aid Association, funding the new, state-of-the-art facility in conjunction with a $45,454 FEMA grant.
The legislative leaders toured the new training center, adjacent to the Smithfield fire station, which is made up of two 40-foot containers in an “L” shape to allow for live burns. Previously, firefighters in northern Rhode Island trained in exercises with simulated fire.
“We’re grateful to Senator Reed, Representative Casey, and all our representatives for helping secure this grant,” said Smithfield Chief Robert Seltzer. “Fortunately, the number of fires is down. But that means our skills can get rusty. This new facility will have real heat, real fire and real smoke, which will provide invaluable training for our firefighters.”
Firefighters will use the new center to train in search-and-rescue operations and firefighting operations in more challenging, and realistic, conditions. The facility, located at 15 Log Road in Smithfield, will also be utilized by firefighters from departments in Woonsocket, Lincoln, Lime Rock, Cumberland, Central Falls, North Providence, Johnston and Smithfield.
“Our brave firefighters and first responders are there for us every day and deserve our full support,” Reed said. “I’m grateful for the work they do and glad to be able to help provide this training facility.”
“As a firefighter, I know how vital proper training is to help us serve our communities,” said Casey, a Woonsocket firefighter. “I’m glad we were able to come together to get this done for all the people of northern Rhode Island.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. David Cicilline helped secure the FEMA grant, and the state legislative grant had support of the entire northern Rhode Island House delegation, including House Minority Whip David Place, a Republican of District 47 in Burrillville and Glocester; Rep. Brian Newberry, a Republican in District 48 in North Smithfield and Burrillville; Rep. Jon Brien, and independent of District 49 in Woonsocket and North Smithfield; and Rep. Brian Rea, a Republican of District 53 in Smithfield and Glocester.
The total cost of the project was $111,000, with local departments making up the $15,545 of remaining costs.