Hatfield public safety officials pitch plan for training facility 

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Published: 4/25/2022 9:15:45 AM

Modified: 4/25/2022 9:14:20 AM

HATFIELD — At one time, Hatfield firefighters could use two vacant former school buildings near the fire station to train and prepare for disasters and other emergency responses.

But since the Center School was converted into condominiums in recent years and the Milkman School, later the DARE Building, was demolished, a suitable regular location for training has not been available.

“We’re coming to realize we’re kind of lacking in doing training because we don’t have a site,” Fire Chief Robert Flaherty told the Select Board last week.

With few places to train, and COVID-19 having impacted the availability of training inside the current public schools, the department is revisiting the possibility of constructing a dedicated multi-use training facility, which was first considered about five years ago.

Fire Capt. Luke Longstreeth, who oversees training for the department, said during the meeting that both the Fire Department and the Hatfield Fire Fighters Association would like to use a 1.3-acre portion of the town-owned field off Route 5 in West Hatfield that serves as a protected buffer for the town well. Under this concept, the building would go in an area outside the well’s restricted area, the town would sell the land needed to the association, and then the land and building would eventually be turned back to the town.

If constructed, the building could be used for training for the Hatfield fire and police departments, as well as for departments in the area.  “Better training is always a good thing,” Longstreeth said.

While cost estimates are imprecise, in part due to inflation, Longstreeth said it would likely be at least a $200,000 project, based on schematics prepared at rk Miles. The training building would look like a residential house, but would have no insulation and would have movable walls inside to set up for various scenarios, he said. At some point, live burns might also be conducted inside.

Longstreeth said other communities have similar structures, noting that Granby has one situated behind Granby Junior/ Senior High School that is used for search and rescue and other exercises, but without live burns. In Sunderland, a training facility does accommodate live burns.

For training, firefighters would gather at the fire station and then get to the Route 5 site in fire trucks and other department vehicles. The building, if constructed, would be visible only from the home at 57 West St. and not other nearby dwellings. Longstreeth said residents who enjoy the site as a place to walk their dogs would not be impeded.

Longstreeth said preparation work at the site could begin, and that more than 60% of the cost will be paid for through donations. The remainder of the money will be raised through association bonfires.

Select Board members said more discussion may have to happen before the project can be pursued.

Chairwoman Diana Szynal said she wants to get more details about the need for the building and potential insurance costs, especially when it is turned back to the town.

“I like the idea. I think it’s fantastic,” said board member Ed Jaworski.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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