When the West Virginia State Fire School opened its doors 75 years ago, firefighters and their instructors could not have envisioned that future trainers would be leading sessions on �€?Weapons of Mass Destruction Awareness.�€?

Such 21st century topics reflect the daily possibilities facing firefighters and other first responders in West Virginia and surrounding states, many of whom are planning to increase their skills at the 75th annual State Fire School at West Virginia University July 17-23.

WVU Fire Service Extension (WVU-FSE) held its first State Fire School in 1931 during the Great Depression. Expert training has progressed in the past 75 years. Classes in terrorist bombings and weapons of mass destruction now join the hose and ladder evolutions and fire prevention courses of yesteryear.

The annual event provides the latest training to firefighters and other emergency responders who serve as the first line of defense during fire and rescue emergencies, chemical spills and terrorist threats.

The 2006 State Fire School offers more than 35 classes, including weeklong courses that meet National Fire Protection Association certification standards and shorter sessions that can lead to West Virginia and National Fire Academy certification.

Charles Vannatter, state fire marshal, will teach �€?Weapons of Mass Destruction Awareness�€? and �€?Incident Response to Terrorist Bombing.�€?

Other expert instructors from West Virginia and surrounding states will teach critical skills, including multiple levels of Delmar firefighter, fire instructor, fire officer, hazmat, rope rescue and arson detection. A grant writing workshop will concentrate on the annual Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, a critical funding source for fire departments nationwide.

Many instructors serve as officers and firefighters for fire departments in this region, including Brookhaven, Clarksburg, Fairmont, Kingwood, Lumberport, Morgantown, Paden City, Star City and Triune-Halleck, W.Va.; Cumberland and Grantsville, Md.; Washington , D.C. ; Loudon County , Va. ; and Bucks County , Pa.

A leader in providing critical, high-quality training to emergency responders, WVU -FSE works with federal, state and local organizations to meet national consensus standards. Fire Service Extension is coordinated by WVU Extension Service, which offers 4-H youth development, health education, agricultural development, community development and other educational initiatives in each of the state’s 55 counties.

The pre-registration deadline is June 30. For more information, go to the State Fire School section of WVU -FSE’s Web site atwww.wvu.edu/~exten/depts/fireserv/state_fire_school.htm, or call Fire Service Extension at 1-866-WVU-FIRE.

The event is held at various campus sites and the WVU -FSE training center in Star City . This summer, ground is scheduled to be broken on a new state fire academy at WVU Jackson’s Mill. Completion of the new training facility is slated for June 2007.