A firefigher training class held in Pineville last week is just one service offered by the state’s RESAs.
RESAs (Regional Education Service Agencies) have been a hot topic since Legislative Auditor John Sylvia recommended in January that they be eliminated. Since then, there have been a variety of proposals, including restructuring the agencies.
Robbie Bailey, coordinator of public services for six counties in RESA I and six more in RESA IV, said RESA provides training for firefighters and EMS personnel.
“We provide the classes that most states require,” he explained.
He said the Firefighter I class in Pineville was being offered at a much lower cost than would be available otherwise.
“The biggest thing is the low cost and accessibility,” Bailey remarked.
He said RESA also offers professional development for teachers (including special education teachers) and IT support for school systems.
It also helps with ABE and SPOKES programs, which help dropouts obtain a GED and get job training.
“What we do is pretty widespread,” Bailey noted
Mike Johnson, assistant chief of the Pineville Fire Department, pointed out that all eight Wyoming County fire departments were represented in the class.
The persons taking last week’s class ranged in age from 16 to 50, he reported.
“These people are volunteering to help their community,” he said, “and this (class) is just the first step. Some of them are in school, in college, some of them work.
“This training is critical for the community,” Johnson commented.
Fire departments, he noted, try to get younger people trained and prepared to step up.
“If you don’t, you run into a space where you don’t have anybody,” he said.
A Firefighter II class is also offered.
Jason Downey of Garwood, a member of the Mullens Fire Department, said the Firefighter I class “gives me the skills I need to help people.”
Part of the training required class participants to conduct a room search. The face piece was blacked out to replicate conditions when firefighters search a burning building.
They also learned to breach a wall safely.
John Conley can be reached at 304-732-6060 or on Twitter @PIHnews.