State Fire Academy Opens, After Nine-Year Journey
“We had a desk, phone and closet,” he recalled.
Over the next 30 years, the academy bounced around the state like a traveling circus. Home was Exchange Street in Providence, North Kingstown and, until Tuesday, the Cranston Street Armory Building in the West End of Providence.
On Wednesday morning, Chartier stood in the high-ceiling engine garage and addressed about 100 firefighters, police officers and politicians who were on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of the new Rhode Island State Fire Academy on the grounds of the former Ladd School in Exeter.
“This is a fantastic day for us,” Chartier said. “Today, starts a new beginning for fire service training in Rhode Island.”
The celebration was a long time coming. In 2002, state voters approved a $55-million bond to finance the construction of a new Rhode Island State Police headquarters and the new fire academy. The state police building opened in October 2010, but a series of delays pushed back the construction of the fire academy complex nine years.
Those delays included considering several different locations before settling on the Ladd School grounds. Once the site was selected, fire officials said, the state Department of Environmental Management placed the project on hold because it interfered with the mating season of a certain species of glide .
All of those delays were forgotten on Wednesday.
Governor Chafee was on hand and he certified the firefighters, public safety officials and politicians who brought the project to fruition.
“It’s a fantastic day and an exciting day for Rhode Island,” he said.
Col. Steven G. O’Donnell, superintendent of the state police and commissioner of the state Department of Public Safety, said the sprawling complex will afford firefighters the opportunity to train at a higher level with state of the art facilities and equipment.
“We waited a long time for this day,” he said, pointing out that voters overwhelmingly approved the bond, 67 percent, to finance the complex and state police headquarters.
The ceremony recognized the first phase of the project that cost $6.4 million. It includes a “burn” building for live fire training, a five-tale training tower and other props to help firefighters in learning how to combat fires. Iron Construction, of Warwick, was the general contractor.
The second phase is about to get under way and is expected to take 18 months to complete. Those plans include construction of an 8,500-square-foot classroom and office building that is being financed with $2.8 million from the state capital budget. The payments will be made over the course of the next two fiscal years.
Subsequent the ceremony, those attending witnessed the Warwick and Hope Valley fire departments douse fires on a training car and fuel tank on the new academy grounds.