Firefighters fundraise for simulatorPublished 9:44pm Thursday, November 17, 2011
ST. JOSEPH — The fire departments of Berrien County are close to raising enough money to purchase a mobile live-fire simulator.
Bruce Stover, fire chief for Berrien Springs-Oronoko Township and member of the Berrien County Fire Chiefs Association, told county commissioners the local fire departments were awarded a federal grant that covers 80 percent of the $506,000 price tag.
That left the departments to come up with more than $100,000. The departments have been fundraising throughout the county for several months. With $90,000 pledged, the firefighters are close to their goal.
“With county and local governments facing so many challenges, we didn’t want to go to the county for $100,000,” he said. “So we went to the county community. We raised $13,000 just on street corners.”
The fire-simulator will allow the more than 700 firefighters in the county to train in firefighting techniques in a trailer that creates the heat, smoke and flames similar to a real building fire.
Stover said the nearest training facility is Kalamazoo, and since many of the firefighters in Berrien County are volunteers, it’s inconvenient and sometimes impossible.
The fire-simulator will also be available to police departments, emergency crews and the SWAT team.
There will be 20 instructors available to train firefighters with the portable simulator. Stover said it will cost $25 per firefighter for an eight-hour day of training.
John LaMore, former president of the Berrien County Fire Chiefs Association and current county commissioner, said this technology has been a long time coming.
“When I left (position as fire chief), this was only a dream,” LaMore said. “It was only attainable by Chicago and New York, big cities. This will provide consistency. It will make every firefighter and our community safer.”