A fter more than 40 years of pushing for a local firefighter-training session, Ray Rathbun of Granville found himself standing in front of a crowd of emergency personnel and politicians at the ribbon-cutting of the new Washington County Emergency Services Training Center in Queensbury Friday morning.
Of all the words spoken that morning – and there were plenty – Rathbun, the fire coordinator for Washington County, had the most profound.
“I am not usually good at public speaking, but I was thinking yesterday that there was something I really needed to say,” Rathbun said at the ceremony for the $400,000 facility on Queensbury Road near the Warren County Municipal Airport.
“It was a year ago today that we started out with an incident in White Creek that turned out to be a homicidal arson, and then a few hours later, we had a house explosion in Salem that killed six people,” he recalled. “All the people who had to get together for those incidents now have a common place to train. That’s what’s important here.”
The building contains a fog machine to simulate smoke, a set of stairs to the second story; window openings that can be shuttered and moveable metal walls to simulate house rescues. Brian LaFlure, Warren County’s fire coordinator, pointed out it can also be used by police departments and EMS crews for training. In fact, the Washington County sheriff’s critical incident response team trained there Monday morning.
The theme of regional cooperation ran through the event.
“We could take a lesson from the volunteers. They are not afraid to work together,” said state Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury). “We needed a place where they could come together on s regular basis. I just love the fact that it’s a regional facility and an example of what happens when people work together.”
The two county boards had to work closely together earlier this year when they realized they would lose the funding for the building if the purchase was not completed by March 31.
Rathbun played a major role in getting the facility built, as state Rep. Tony Jordan (R-Greenwich) will attest.
“It was 2008 or 2009, and I was marching in the Salem Fourth of July parade. Ray was next to me, and he got my ear about the training center for the rest of the parade. He said he was willing to do anything to get it done and would even come down to my house on a Sunday night and talk to me about it.”
After the ceremony, Rathbun smiled as he stood in the cool interior of the building and explained what it could be used for.
“Guys can come in here and crawl around on their hands and knees. We can get the smoke going and we can completely black out the place,” he said. “They’ll use it for the mask confidence course so they get comfortable wearing air masks, they can work on self-rescue techniques, and they can also work outside, putting up ladders and rappelling.”
The facility was built from used steel shipping containers.
After seeing so many other proposals fail to come to fruition, Rathbun was grateful the project was finally done.
“I never thought it would be a reality,” he said. “I thought this one would be like all the other ones.”
Dierdre Scozzafava, deputy secretary of state for local government, was at the ceremony.
“Cooperation is critical to the success of all New York. I witnessed it firsthand in the aftermath of last year’s devastating storms,” Scozzafava said. “The fire departments and emergency services facility in Warren and Washington County will serve as a model for other counties that will foster greater intermunicipal cooperation while lightening the burden of our local heroes, who otherwise would have to travel far from home to take advantage of what will continue to grow here.”
The grant for the facility came through the department of state in 2006. The facility was originally planned to be larger, but three-quarters of the money went to planning the facility and the rest went to the prefabricated buildings and other equipmen