Fire academy coming to county
TAMU-C, local officials finalize agreement

Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Sept. 23, 2004 -- Representatives of Texas A&M University-Commerce and Hopkins County met Thursday morning and formalized an agreement that will bring a fire training academy to Hopkins County.

North East Texas Regional Fire Rescue Academy will be the name of the new school and classes will be taught in Sulphur Springs by Hopkins County Fire Administrator Carl Nix and other instructors.

Dr. Keith McFarland, president of A&M-Commerce, said the new school will benefit the university and Hopkins County, as well as the Northeast Texas region.

"This move is the move of a really outstanding program to an area where they can expand and serve a greater need," McFarland said. "I think this is very good for Hopkins County, good for the entire area, as we prepare our firemen. Fire safety is so important to every area, no matter what the size."

Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap said the training facility could mean a lower fire insurance rating for homeowners in the county through more and better trained firefighters.

"It's always better to have education facilities [where] we train people for a job, and this will be a tremendous opportunity for not only the people of Hopkins County, but the entire region," Millsap said.

One of the goals of the school is to prepare firefighters to fill job vacancies in local departments and keep valuable human resources in the county, rather than have those people go elsewhere to find work. At the same time, it will provide a larger pool of trained personnel that would be available to area fire departments.

The cost of operating the school is anticipated to be $186,000 for the first year. The cost will be offset by the tuition paid by the students.

The anticipated cost of the school is just more than $2,400 per student, and four classes will be taught per year.

Millsap said he anticipated the school would grow beyond the number of students needed to meet the costs of the instruction, and any excess or profitable revenue would be applied to the county's general fund.

A current class at the academy will be graduating in early Octobe. As a new class of student firefighters begins, the school will begin operating under its new name of North East Texas Regional Fire Rescue Academy.

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