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State adds five new sites to eliminate firefighter training deserts

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State adds five new sites to eliminate firefighter training deserts

Jun 18, 2024 | 2:42 pm ET
By Mia Hilkowitz
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State adds five new sites to eliminate firefighter training deserts
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Gov. Eric Holcomb, center, speaks to an area firefighter at a Tuesday event. Indiana will build five new training sites for the state's firefighters to address so-called training deserts. (Photo from Holcomb's X account)

The state will build five new firefighter training sites across Indiana as part of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s multimillion-dollar plan to eliminate “training deserts.” 

The state will build towers in Washington Township, Chrisney, Hartford City, Rushville and Paoli to train firefighters on live burn training structures. This is in addition to the four training sites built under the first phase of the plan — called the Hub-and-Spoke Training Model — which are in Wabash, Corydon, Linton and Rensselaer. 

“For years, gaps have challenged and stretched Indiana’s fire service across the state,” Holcomb said in a press release. “Now, with this new program, we have the opportunity to properly support all those firefighters who sacrifice so much for each and every one of us everyday.” 

Holcomb invests $10 million in volunteer firefighter equipment

The Indiana General Assembly appropriated $17.7 million toward Holcomb’s plan in 2023, with $7.7 million allocated for constructing new training sites in areas where firefighters must drive more than 30 miles to train. The other $10 million is intended to purchase personal protection equipment for volunteer firefighters, which Holcomb doled out to 66 different departments in April. 

If there is any left over funding after constructing the new sites, the Indiana Fire and Public Safety Academy — an education and training branch of the state fire and building safety division — will evaluate how to use the funds.

Indiana Fire Marshal Steve Jones said in the release that most Indiana fire departments have volunteer firefighters who cannot travel to other areas of the state to further their education. 

“This plan tells them we are about the quality of training available to them, and we’re committed to making it more accessible,” Jones said. 

The training sites in Wabash, Croydon, Linton and Rensselaer will be fully operational this summer, although it is unclear when construction on the five new sites will begin.