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Minnesota fire departments receive training grants

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota fire departments will again receive funding to help keep firefighters’ skills sharp.

The Minnesota Board of Firefighter Training and Education (MBFTE) recently announced it will provide Minnesota’s 784 fire departments more than $1.6 million — $80 per firefighter — for training classes. 

“These grants benefit the safety of all Minnesotans,” said Bruce West, MBFTE executive director. “Assuring annual firefighter training is good for departments and their communities. Skill updating makes firefighters better responders and also keeps them safer.”

In addition to boosting department training budgets by $80 per firefighter, the MBFTE will fund more than $1.4 million for live burn, hazardous materials operations and other training courses.  

The Hamel Fire Department recently used MBFTE funding to conduct a live burn. The volunteer crew battles an average of two house fires a year — not nearly enough for the firefighters to receive optimal levels of on-the-job training and experience. 

“I think this is very valuable training for our firefighters, which in turns provides better service for our customers,” Hamel Fire Chief Neil Wolf said. “We can practice here to avoid mistakes on the fire scene where it makes a difference.”

The amount of training money departments receive per firefighter depends on funding allocated to the MBFTE by Minnesota’s Fire Safety Account. The Fire Safety Account was created in 2006 by the Minnesota Legislature. It is funded by a fire-safety surcharge on all homeowner and certain commercial insurance policies. The Fire Safety Advisory Committee makes recommendations to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety commissioner on use of the funding. 

This is the fourth year the MBFTE has provided firefighter training dollars. The allotment process helps eliminate the training budget disparity between larger, better-funded departments and those in cities and towns with smaller budgets. 

West said firefighters of all experience levels need annual training to help keep themselves and their communities safe. Live burn training is an especially effective tool, he said. 

“It doesn’t matter if you’re one year in the department or 30 years, you still learn every day,” West said. “There are things that happen inside a live burn that will better prepare you for the next fire.”