Site preparation work has begun for the new State Fire Academy at Jackson's Mill. The $6.3 million facility is scheduled to be completed in June 2007.

WESTON -- Work has begun on the long-awaited West Virginia State Fire Academy at West Virginia University's Jackson's Mill State 4-H Camp at Weston.

Signaling the culmination of five years of planning, heavy equipment began digging and relocating soil at the south end of the Jackson's Mill airstrip last week.

The $6.3 million training academy is scheduled to be completed in June 2007. Steeb Crawford of Wexford, Pa., is the general contractor.

McKinley and Associates, an award-winning firm from Wheeling, designed the 25,752-square-foot facility, which will contain two wings-an office and classroom section for faculty and staff and a bay area for inside training.

The State Fire Academy will be used by West Virginia University's Fire Service Extension (WVU-FSE) to train volunteer and career firefighters and first-responders. It will replace the current training facility on Monongahela Boulevard across from the WVU Coliseum. All WVU-FSE employees - including five full-time faculty - will move from WVU's Morgantown campus to the new facility next summer.

WVU-FSE develops training courses, teaches National Fire Academy courses, offers national qualification testing and certifications, and trains firefighters in regional schools and at the annual State Fire School.

A multi-use building, the academy will be available for community group meetings and other WVU Jackson's Mill events. Annually, the Mill welcomes more than 76,000 campers, adult learners and history buffs.

The construction project's $6,308,000 budget is funded by Higher Education Policy Commission bonds ($3,772,500); an Economic Development Agency grant ($2,000,000); and a West Virginia Legislature appropriation ($535,500).

WVU Jackson's Mill, a 525-acre retreat operated by the WVU Extension Service, is the boyhood home of Civil War General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and the home of the nation's first state 4-H camp.

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