Westbrook Regional Vocational Center is set to receive $1.5 million in federal funding for a “live fire” facility to bolster training both for students in its firefighter program and for fire and rescue services in the area as well.

Westbrook Fire Chief Steve Sloan hopes by the fall to have a “state-of-the-art” building operational and providing students “real life experience.” But additionally, “this project is going to positively impact the fire service, not just in the city of Westbrook, but with all departments within Cumberland County,” he said.

Members of the Eustis Fire Department deploy a ladder to the second floor at a firefighting training facility in Farmington. File photo / Maine Monitor

A county fire chiefs group has been hoping for this type of training facility for 20 years, Sloan said Monday.

Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree announced the Community Project Funding for WRVC last week. The funds are part of more than $16.7 million earmarked for 15 Maine community projects and the package now goes to President Joe Biden for approval.

WRVC trains students from multiple school districts in addition to Westbrook, including Bonny Eagle, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Gorham, Gray-New Gloucester, Cumberland-North Yarmouth, Scarborough, Portland, South Portland, Windham-Raymond and Yarmouth. Area colleges offering fire science programs offer up to six college credit hours to students who complete the WRVC firefighting program.

“As Maine continues to experience a critical firefighter and EMS personnel staffing shortage, it’s imperative to train more students to fill these positions after graduation, and to keep current first responders up to date on their own training,” Pingree said in a press release.


Sloan said with live fire training, students will be “ready to go” after high school graduation.

WRVC Director Todd Fields said 12 students are currently involved in the firefighter program.

A site for the multi-story facility has not yet been determined, but Fields said it would be in the vicinity of the vocational center. Westbrook Superintendent Peter Lancia, Sloan and other officials from the school and fire departments will be visiting potential sites soon, he said. The site will require Westbrook Planning Board and Maine Department of Environmental Protection approval.

The fire and school departments also are collaborating on the design of the building, which will be steel with a brick facade to enhance aesthetics, Sloan said. There will be a tower with stairs, windows and moveable partitions inside. The building will be for training only and will not include classroom space.

The Cornelia Warren Community Association donated some matching funds to WRVC for its cost of engineering and plans, Fields said.

“It’s an exciting time,” he said.

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