Training our state's emergency service personnel since 1960.
It all began with an executive order in 1960 from then New Hampshire governor Wesley Powell to formulate a committee to study the need for fire training and cooperation among the various fire service in the Granite State. This committee was known as the Governor’s Fire School Committee.
The following year legislators voted to establish an eight-member committee to be appointed by the State Board of Fire Control and the State Board of Education. This group would be made up from various state firefighting organizations. This committee was to provide an annual one-week program of firefighter training at the University of New Hampshire.
Eventually the committee grew to ten members, adding the State Fire Instructors organization and the New Hampshire Permanent Firefighters Association as well as an instructor institute to provide qualified people to teach firefighting. Training at this time was occurring around the state in various locations.
With the collaboration of the State Department of Education, officials realized the need for a full-time person to administer and provide training on a more consistent basis. By 1969 Barr Bush was hired to be the first full-time Director of Fire Service Training in New Hampshire under the auspices of the Division of Vocational Technical Education in the Department of Education. A small office on the second floor of the Department of Transportation building on Stickney Avenue in Concord became the first location for this new Bureau.
Bush, who was later to become Chief of Training after a reorganization of the fire training service in 1971, organized New Hampshire into seven districts to unify and improve fire training in the state. Until this point in time, training was scattered around the state in various districts, at one time numbering 50. Instructors were required to ask permission of each district and the home office to teach outside their area. A district coordinator was assigned to each of the seven new districts to help standardize training and handle any training aids that were available.
This reorganization was one of two goals Chief Bush had at that time; the other was to have an associate degree program in fire science to be established at the vocational-technical college in Laconia.
Around the mid 1970’s Fire Service Training (FST) moved from the Stickney Avenue location to Prescott Park at 105 Loudon Road. Retired New York City Fire Lieutenant John Ayers contacted Barry to offer his assistance. Chief Bush invited John in and put him to the task of correlating the information Barry had gathered over the years as well as curriculum material from Oklahoma State University, which included the original “Red Book,” a precursor to the Essentials manual used currently in the certification programs. This became the first standardized curriculum to be used for firefighter training.
Fire Service Training became an autonomous agency in 1981 when an act by the state legislature split it from the state’s department of education. FST moved to 18 Low Avenue in Concord.
After a short time on Low Avenue, the now Fire Standards & Training Commission moved its efforts and accumulated hand-me-down equipment and apparatus to a larger facility at the corner of Storrs Street at Chandler Street in the city.
Standing from left to right: Chief Guy L. Foss, Wolfboro; Chief Frank Colyn, Hanover; Chief Pitney, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard; Chief Ted Crompton, Portsmouth; Chief Ralph Seavey, Rochester; Wendell Crowell, treasurer, New Hampshire Chief's Club;
Seated: Howard Swain, Department of Education, Chief Walter Messer, Keene; state fire marshall Aubrey G. Robinson; Chief Edward Grady, Manchester.
There were 56 chiefs that attended for the purpose of developing cooperation in the New Hampshire cities, towns and villages in the exchange of information upon all matters relating to fire fighting, fire prevention, fire inspection, training and safety of life and property by those responsible for these vital activities.
By the 1980’s the Fire Standards & Training Commission moved into a renovated hanger on Airport Road. Though this provided some improvement, the classroom and training facilities were still somewhat lacking. In 1989 an act was established to form the Division of Fire Standards & Training and a Bureau of Fire Safety, and to reestablish the FST Commission. This brought training efforts into the New Hampshire Department of Safety.
By 1991, funds were once again appropriated for an architectural and engineering study for a new facility for the FST Commission, as well as $4.9 million for the purpose of constructing a new fire academy. The plan was to develop classrooms, training areas, and space and equipment for courses needed for career, volunteer, and paid/on call firefighters in New Hampshire- the beginnings of the academy campus at 98 Smokey Bear Boulevard.
Beginning in 1993 legislation was presented to raise $2,126,500 to construct a dormitory and other training structures and provide equipment. This act added the dormitory, the fire station and props in the drillyard.
Also at this time, legislation was introduced to change the name of the Bureau of Fire Standards & Training to the Division of Fire Standards & Training. With this name change came a call to place an unclassified director to administer and supervise the fire service training and research program throughout the state. As a result, the FST Commission no longer held its autonomy over the Division of Fire Standards and Training but rather became a partner in fire training, maintaining curriculum review, firefighter hiring requirements and certification as their part in the education of New Hampshire firefighters.
In the early 2000s another name change for the division resulted when administration of the state’s emergency medical profession was added to the group’s overall responsibilities, resulting in what is now known as the Division of Fire Standards and Training and Emergency Medical Services.
Enhanced training opportunities developed when federal matching funds were secured to develop the specialized Aircraft Rescue Firefighting training grounds. This system of props and controls on an 8-acre site serves to provide scenario training for the entire northeast region of the country. The first classes were scheduled for the Spring of 2002.
An addition to the fire station was completed in the summer of 2008 at a cost of approximately $700,000.00 to provide two more bays for apparatus and a large storage area for the academy equipment.
The division continues to look forward with enhanced training opportunities by adding robust computer simulation capabilities for EMS providers as well as leading edge online training modules.