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Caballero presents check for emergency training center

State Senator Anna Caballero, at center, with Mayor Matthew Serratto, Fire Chief Derek Parker, City Manager Stephanie Dietz, and City Fire crew members during the check presentation on Tuesday.
State Senator Anna Caballero, at center, with Mayor Matthew Serratto, Fire Chief Derek Parker, City Manager Stephanie Dietz, and City Fire crew members during the check presentation on Tuesday.

A future training center for firefighters and public safety responders in Merced is $3 million closer to fruition.

State Senator Anna Caballero, who secured the funds directly from the state for the first phase of the project, presented a check on Tuesday to Merced Fire Chief Derek Parker alongside Mayor Matthew Serratto and City Manager Stephanie Dietz.

“For us to have a successful and thriving fire department, we need to have staff,” Parker said. “In order to have those staff, we need to train them adequately. One of the challenges of the fire department is finding candidates who want to find their long time home. This is part of our plan to reach out to the community to reduce barriers.”

The Hawk Regional Training Center, as it’s called, is currently being planned for an empty lot in a corner of the Airport Industrial Park off South Thornton Road. The Center will sit just off a bend off Hawk Drive, and will feature training facilities for firefighters, search and rescue members, first responders and others.

“Not only is this an investment in the future of students and employees here in the city, but in the safety of the community,” Caballero said.

A conceptual layout released by North Star Engineering Group showed the facilities currently planned, which at the moment include a parking lot, training tower, emergency vehicle courses, urban search and rescue and firefighting courses and a larger passenger aircraft for rescue training.

There will also be locker rooms and classrooms for the Merced Fire Department as well as students from Merced College and Merced Union High School. The City has established a partnership with the local schools in order to train young people as early as possible for careers in public safety. The project will link with the new Merced College Paramedic Training program and establish an ROP class for high school juniors and seniors interested in a career in fire service. Upon completion of the ROP program, the students will be trained EMTs, wildland firefighters and first responders.

“It’s monumental for a community like ours to have an opportunity to reach out to the youth, to work with that high school and college age,” Parker said. “There’s very few opportunities to have such an impact as this up and down the state. This is by far one of the most important things in my career that I will ever be a part of.”

Currently the project is working its way through environmental review, with a two year plan to build out the infrastructure, classrooms, parking and the training tower. Future phases are set to be developed over the next ten years, according to the City.

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