Fire Training Center Gives MCCTC Students Tailored Experience

CANFIELD, Ohio — Some 30 years ago, Austintown Township Fire Chief Andrew Frost said his father had a vision for fire training at Mahoning County Career and Technical Center. 

The elder Frost, a former fire chief and MCCTC coordinator, wanted to create an interactive learning environment tailored toward educating students’ essential emergency responder skills for being firefighters. 

On Monday, Frost welcomed stakeholders and elected officials to the realization of his father’s vision as MCCTC cut the ribbon on its new Fire Training Center.

“Back in the day, these guys were teaching in little tiny classrooms or hallways – wherever the school could find them room,” Frost said. “They kept pushing to develop more and more.”

Eventually MCCTC increased the number of classrooms in the school for this type of education. After several expansions over the years and changing mandates for fire training, MCCTC had to make a big decision: build the training center or “broaden the business,” he said.

“We train everyone from high school students, to adult education, to more advanced training for already existing firefighters,” he said. “The kids learn in a fire station setting so that the first day they go to work, it’s nothing new to them and they just feel at home.”

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Gallery images include officials cutting the ribbon to the new MCCTC fire training center, including state Rep. Al Cutrona; MCCTC board members Kathi McNabb-Welsh and Marie Dockry; Nick Santucci, senior consultant for workforce & community engagement at VAZA Consulting; state Sen. Michael Rulli; State Fire Marshal Kevin Reardon; and MCCTC Superintendent John Zehentbauer and Director Mara Banfield; as well as images of students in the classroom and the MCCTC fire engine.

The center includes a fully functioning fire station, training props, a search and rescue building and a fire training tower. Additionally, Frost said all fire departments in Trumbull, Mahoning, and Columbiana County are given access to use the fire station.

Andrew Frost Sr. first brought the idea to John Zehentbauer, MCCTC superintendent, about seven years ago. Zehentbauer said the project was done in three phases: the lab, the tower and the classroom.

The total for the project has been between $1.2 – $1.4 million for the construction, Zehentbauer said. The first phase cost about $800,000 he said, with the other two phases making up for the remaining balance. The money came from the capital budget and federal Appalachian Regional Commission grants.

“The students are excited,” Zehentbauer said. “We built a house which has rooms they can use for search and rescue, they have a variety of modules on the training center tower out there, and also we are coming into the electric vehicle stage…we will be training them in that also in the future.”

Zehentbauer said the current public safety program at MCCTC is full for both juniors and seniors, and the adult program runs on weekends and evenings. He said instructors come from a number of area fire departments.

State Rep. Al Cutrona, R-59, said this was an opportunity where the state came through with the capital budget, giving half a million dollars toward the project’s completion. Zehentbauer first came to Cutrona a couple of years ago, he said.

“I’m excited because this gives an opportunity for the Valley to have some of the most experienced, skilled and equipped first responders out there to save lives,” Cutrona said. “This comes at a time where we need more and more people to enter that dangerous line of work.”

Cutrona said the state is struggling to get first responders, law enforcement and firefighters, making this important to properly educate future generations.

“It’s [the training center] not just going to last for five years or 10 years,” he said. “It’s literally going to last for decades and is going to continue to produce the most skilled folks out there that will be out on the front lines saving folks.”

Kevin Reardon, state fire marshal, said this project is an “asset” to the community. He said the shortage in firefighters is a direction the state has been taking for several years. 

“These aren’t things you can just learn from a computer,” Reardon said. “Hands on training like this is critical in getting those skills to people in order to go out and get jobs.”

Zehentbauer said he “couldn’t be more proud” of his students and believes what they are doing is truly incredible.

Pictured at top: MCCTC celebrated the grand opening of its new fire training center.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.