BETHLEHEM — With such speakers as Gov. Maggie Hassan citing the intra-region and intra-state teamwork and cooperation that made the project possible, the Department of Safety has dedicated the Raymond S. Burton North Country Fire and Emergency Medical Services Training Facility.
The first and only satellite of the state’s fire academy in Concord, the NCTF has been a dream for years of North Country fire chiefs who, like Bethlehem’s Jack Anderson, have said that the distance and time required to travel to Concord has placed a significant financial strain on North Country fire departments and their communities.
The desire for a fire-training facility up north eventually reached the ears of Burton, then District 1 Executive Councilor, who did what he did best: talk to people, among them John Barthelmes, the commissioner of the Department of Safety.
In turn, Barthelmes reached out to North Country fire chiefs and, three years later, the result is the NCTF which was dedicated on Aug. 8 amid pomp and ceremony. The facility sits on a 12.1 acre-site on Trudeau Road that had previously been owned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was used to support its operations in the nearby White Mountain National Forest.
Deb Pendergast, director of the Division of Fire Standards and Training and Emergency Medical Services, said the NCTF represents more than 1,200 hours of volunteer labor in addition to numerous in-kind contributions, “and I think we would agree but that’s what we’re all about in New Hampshire.”
Barthelmes echoed the importance of volunteers in making the NCTF a reality, saying that while the state was a partner in the project, its real drivers were the North Country fire chiefs and officials who saw it through from inception to completion.
The commissioner thanked Perry Plummer, who previously served as director of Fire Standards and Training and Emergency Medical Services, as well as Anderson, the project superintendent, and Sugar Hill Fire Chief Allan Clark for their efforts on behalf of the NCTF.
Clark, said Barthelmes, was the “doubting Thomas” without whose realistic perspective as to the challenges involved in bringing the NCTF to life, “we might not be here.”
Hassan said it was appropriate that the NCTF is named after Burton, who passed away Nov. 12, 2013, from liver cancer, because Burton spent his public career standing up and fighting for the North Country. She added that the first responsibility of a governor is to ensure public safety, adding that the NCTF will help greatly in that regard.
Joe Kenney, who won a special election to fill the balance of Burton’s term on the Executive Council, said the NCTF is “not just a fire academy” but a comprehensive public-safety training facility for the North Country.
Clark told the audience, which was comprised mainly of fire officials and law makers, that he “never thought we’d be here” for the NCTF dedication.
“This didn’t happen because of one, single person,” said Clark, who joked that while Burton would often ask what he could do to help, he was told “No, we’re holding you back for when things go really bad,” a scenario that never actually arose.
The NCTF is “going to get a lot of use,” said Clark, “and it’s going to make a difference.”
Anderson said the NCTF got “tremendous support from Concord,” including from both Plummer and Pendergast, each of whom came up to Bethlehem to do volunteer work.