Hein puts firefighters F.I.R.S.T. in new training and recruitment program

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Hein (podium): “Firefighter Investment, Recruitment, Service & Training Program”

MARBLETOWN – Ulster County Executive Michael Hein announced a new proposal Tuesday, to partner with SUNY Ulster in the construction of a multi-million dollar centralized training facility for volunteer firefighters.
Hein calls his proposal “Firefighter Investment, Recruitment, Service & Training Program,” Hein announced at the Stone Ridge Firehouse in Marbletown. He was joined by Dr. Alan Roberts, president of the nearby community college, and various other emergency officials.
“I am going to work with the county legislature as well as the county’s fire professionals to move through what we think are key changes; one, is an evolution of the fire coordinator position into a full-time position,” Hein said. “We also believe it may play a role as an adjunct professor at our community college. Training will be greatly enhanced as well with creation of a state-of-the-art fire training center, all linked SUNY Ulster.”
Several firefighters from around the county spoke in favor of a training center during Tuesday night’s Ulster County Legislature meeting.  Resolutions pertaining to the center had been pulled from this month’s agenda.
Currently, members of the county’s 50 fire companies must travel elsewhere to meet many of the certification requirements.
“As you come to recruit and retain individuals, you are trying to provide resources for them, in an easy as possible setting you can,” Hein explained. “If someone has to travel across the state to get the additional training, oftentimes that simply does not happen.”
Under F.I.R.S.T., the county fire coordinator will become a full-time position, with expanded responsibilities to coordinate between the local departments. A $2 million investment to build a state-of-the-art training facility will be linked to the college, hopefully resulting in a state funding match. College courses will be accredited, and free of charge to the trainees.
“We’ve been waiting for this a long, long time; there’s been a lot of discussion,” said Everett Erichsen chairman of the County Fire Chief’s Association. “That is a huge asset to our volunteers. We need to bring everybody in, have the volunteers and move forward to have a volunteer fire service in the future.”
Hein added that SUNY Ulster President Dr. Roberts brings prior experience to the table, having developed a firematic program Indian River State College in Fort Pierce, Florida, as vice president of Applied Science and Technology there.