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Palm Coast Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017 10 months ago

Palm Coast to donate fire trucks to volunteer fire department in Kentucky and FPC Fire Leadership Academy

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The trucks are older models that are no longer useful as first-line trucks for Palm Coast.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Palm Coast plans to donate two older fire apparatuses: one to a firefighting education program at Flagler Palm Coast High School, and a second to a volunteer fire department in Harlan, Kentucky.

The trucks are models that are no longer useful as first-line trucks for the city, City Manager Jim Landon told Palm Coast City Council members at a council workshop Oct. 31.

Howard Peiffer, a volunteer with the city’s Fire Associates and a former chief of the city’s volunteer fire department, has offered to pay $2,000 himself to ship one of the trucks to the department in Kentucky and plans to go there to teach the firefighters how to use it.

Palm Coast gave a neighboring town in Kentucky a fire apparatus about two years ago, and Peiffer also taught that department how to use its new truck.

The truck to be donated to the Sunshine Fire Department in Harlan would become the all-volunteer department’s first-line truck.

The Sunshine Fire Department serves an area of about 145 square miles with a population of about 9,500 people, and runs about 950 calls a year, Peiffer said. They get about $18,000 from the state and local government to operate and then have to raise the rest themselves.

The Sunshine department is now also assisting a nearby department that lost its firehouse because of a roof collapse due to heavy snow.

The apparatus that will go to Flagler Palm Coast High School will aid its Fire Leadership Academy, which prepares students for firefighting careers by giving them certification coursework they would otherwise need to take after graduation.

Students who complete the entire four-year program are eligible to sit for firefighter certification exams once they turn 18. The program began with a class of 50 students in January 2017 and got an additional 75 in the 2017-2018 school year, according to the program website.

Landon said the program can help supply the local fire department with firefighters who won’t be as likely to leave town after a few years.

“The goal is to work with our school district to grow our own,” he said.

The Palm Coast Fire Department has increasingly hired from its own pool of volunteers and interns, and that tactic could be expanded to the graduates of the high school program, Assistant Fire Chief Jerry Forte said.

The department had been losing seven or eight people per year, he said, and has dropped that number down to three in 18 months.

“That’s pretty cool numbers,” he said. “For me, that’s showing that it’s working. ... If we can take a volunteer and train them to be a career firefighter, certainly we can take a high school student and train them to be a volunteer who will then be a career firefighter,” he said.

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