Developing a Top-Notch Firefighting Training Facility

Wayne County Fire Rescue Training Facility

The Wayne County Fire and Rescue Association is a great example of what can happen when a group of like-minded individuals come together for the same goals.

From its inception in Apple Creek, Ohio, in 1939, the WCFRA has grown into a fantastic firefighting association, now located in Wooster, Ohio.

The WFCRA’s goals are:

  • To promote fellowship among members.
  • Build cooperation between fire departments and/or emergency squads.
  • Provide educational programs for firefighting, fire prevention, emergency squad and rescue work.
  • To aid other like organizations of the state of Ohio and to promote the passing of laws beneficial to the fire and/or rescue service.

Another major function of the WFCRA is maintaining and operating the Wayne County Ohio Fire Rescue Regional Training Facility, which has evolved into a firefighting educational center to be envied.

“This was an idea, and they made it happen with nothing,” said Keith Eriksen, President of Rawhide Fire Hose in Orrville, Ohio. “They scrounged and dug for what they have. They get no funding; it’s all donations and volunteers.”

One of the reasons the WCFRA started was for mutual aid among many of the small towns, along with camaraderie, water management and unifying the firefighting efforts in Northeast Ohio.

Firefighting Training Facility Takes Shape

The training facility came years later. The story goes one year on their way back from the Fire Department Instructors Conference, the fire chiefs from Wayne County stopped for dinner. Using scrap paper and bar napkins, the fire chiefs scratched out their idea for a local firefighting training school.

With Jim Shriver leading the way, the idea of the training center became reality. One of the first actions was to find a facility, which they did when they bought what was the Apple Creek Development Center for Handicapped for a dollar.

From there, Shriver and company scratched and clawed and pooled every resource they could find to build a top-rate training facility.

Today, the training center offers a remarkable array of firefighting and emergency classes and training courses, with classrooms for coursework, and the resources to conduct hands-on training and testing, such as obstacle courses and emergency rescue scenarios.

The courses offered include everything from 36-hour live burn classes, to Hazmat training, to an Emergency Vehicle Operators Course to oil- and gas-related firefighting. In the fall, the training center offers a fire training academy and weekend seminars.

“They do it all out there,” said Eriksen, who has taken and conducted classes at the center. “They have professors from Akron University come down and do classes, they teach hydraulics classes, they’re really big with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association. They go to schools and teach household fire safety.”

In fact, the training center’s reputation has become so well-known by other fire departments in Ohio that they closed down their schools so their students could attend in Wayne County.

The remarkable thing is that it’s all done through volunteer work, donations and contributions because the training center receives no funding from levies. Any charges are modest.

The WFCRA and its training center are tremendous resources for the firefighting community in Wayne County and the surrounding areas, and it’s something Rawhide Fire Hose is a big believer in supporting—whether it be through volunteering or donations.

About The Author: Keith Eriksen

Keith was the president of Rawhide Fire Hose from 2000 thru 2018. He is a former member of the Wooster Township Fire Department, serving with the Wayne County Underwater Search and Rescue unit. He has extensive knowledge of valves and hydraulics from years of experience in the oil and natural gas production business. In addition to being an avid scuba diver with master diver endorsements he is also an instrument rated private pilot, certified for high performance and complex aircraft. He enjoys landscape and gardening work, gourmet cooking, spending time with his (grown) children and traveling with his wife, Vicki.

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