MOUNT GILEAD — The North Central Ohio Fire Training Academy has evolved and grown.
A “Live burn site” was built and set up to instruct firefighters in the required “Live Fire Training” course that is in the Firefighter I and Firefighter II courses. Firefighters are also able to get the required 18 hours of continuing education per year at the academy.
Chief Chad Swank credits Assistant Chief Bruce Young as the “master mind” in setting up the live burn site that is by the village water department behind the fairgrounds in Mount Gilead. The course is used to teach the practical skills with an actual experience in fire fighting.
After the Firefighter I course, most go on to an additional 84 hour course with Firefighter II. There is also an additional course for operating an emergency vehicle as well as the college level Instructor’s course.
Swank plans to add a CPR course for firefighters, and another goal is to have the academy to be a “one stop shop” for training firefighters.
Both Swank and Young take pride in the high insurance rating received by the Mount Gilead Fire Department. With a rating of “One” the highest and “Ten” the lowest, Mount Gilead has a “Three” which is considered to be exceptional for a small, village department. They are ranked in the top 15 percent in the country.
The Mount Gilead Fire Department is now working with 37 firefighters. Only the chief is full-time and all others are part-time or volunteers.
Chief Swank said he schedules five to be at the station on weekdays 8-4 and weekends have four on staff with others on call when needed. Part-time workers are paid an hourly wage, depending on their credentials and experience.
The academy is financed through government grants and workers comp grants as well as the fire levy. The cost of the Firefighter I course is $1,500 per person. Mount Gilead firefighter tuition costs are paid through grants. Students from other counties or towns must be affiliated with another department that will pay their costs and furnish their gear.
The cost of firefighting gear per person is $3,000 with a cost of $5,000 per person for the breathing apparatus. Those are also paid through grants, the fire levy, or individuals taking the course.
The North Central Fire Training Academy is now owned by Mount Gilead. It is chartered under the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
“My number one asset is my people,” Swank said. “I have complete confidence in our staff and instructors as we conduct classes and testing, or go out on a call.”
• The academy gives the village eligibility to get grants for training their firefighters.
• The department’s excellent rating gives Mount Gilead residents better home insurance rates.
• It is an advantage for Mount Gilead firemen to get training here in the county as well as having most Mount Gilead firemen trained at a Fire Level II or Instructor level. It puts their level of training and experience at a professional level.
• Networking is possible with the many counties that are represented at the academy. This brings new information and a fresh outlook to leadership and firemen.
• Having the academy in Mount Gilead is important for retention of firefighters and recruitment.
• The academy also benefits the other Morrow County fire stations with instruction and use of the live burn training site. The Mount Gilead Fire Station works together in cooperation with Cardington, Marengo, Johnsville and Iberia to serve the county.