Dave Burkholder lauded for support of public safety in Franklin County

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

A recap of the past, a look to the future and a surprise present-day honor were on the agenda at the Franklin County Public Safety Training Center on Friday morning, Oct. 7.

Local fire, EMS, law enforcement and government representatives gathered in the storage garage to mark 20 years since ground was broken for the center and learn about plans for a new non-burn tactical building and site improvements.

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The storage building — the first constructed at the site — had always just been called the Morton Building for the brand name of the structure. Now it is known as the Burkholder Building in honor of David W. Burkholder.

Danny Byers, chairman of the Franklin County Public Safety Training Center Board of Directors, talks about naming the storage building at the facility for David W. Burkholder, second from right. Also pictured: Burkholder’s granddaughter, Kaylee Herrington; his wife, Arlene Burkholder; and Randy O’Donnell, chairman of the Franklin County Fire Chiefs Association.

“Without him, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Danny Byers, chairman of the board of directors of the training center, said.

What does David W. Burkholder do for public safety in Franklin County?

“They got me,” Burkholder said after the announcement.

“My heart’s always been in fire service,” said Burkholder, who is a life member of the Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Co., which he joined in the early 1970s, a member of the Marion Volunteer Fire Co. and an associate member of a number of other local fire companies. “I used to fight fires.”

‘My heart’s always been in fire service,’ said Dave Burkholder after a building at the Franklin County Public Safety Training Center was named in his honor.

Today, he is “our go-to guy,” Byers said, explaining Burkholder takes care of the long gravel driveway to the center, cuts the grass with his own fuel and mower and “fixes what we break,” in addition to serving on the board of directors.

Burkholder’s business, Dave’s Truck Repair, and his home sit along U.S. 11 south of Chambersburg next to the center’s driveway so he’s also the person who gets called when the automatic alarm goes off in the middle of the night.

The 71-year-old pulls big rigs off the interstate to help crash responders, tows and does repairs on emergency service vehicles that break down or get stuck and provides vehicles for extrication training.

This building at the Franklin County Public Safety Training Center has been named in honor of David W. Burkholder, who serves on the board of directors and is hands-on with property maintenance such as cutting the grass and taking care of the driveway.

“Without him, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Byers said.

A bronze plaque that will be attached to the building reads:

The Burkholder BuildingNamed in honor ofDavid W. BurkholderOwner of Dave’s Truck RepairWho has provided guidanceAnd support to the Franklin County Public SafetyTraining Center for yearsDedicated October 7, 2022

“It’s in my heart,” Burkholder repeated, pointing out an ambulance parked in the corner of the building he outfitted so fire and rescue students from Franklin County Career and Technology Center have an idea what an ambulance looks like inside.

Dave Burkholder outfitted this ambulance at the Franklin County Public Safety Training Center for use by fire and rescue students from the Franklin County Career and Technology Center.

And he’s ready to do the excavating for free when new water lines are installed for hydrants at the center as part of the next phase for the site.

What is the Franklin County Public Safety Training Center all about?

“What started with a dream of the Franklin County Fire Chiefs' Association 40+ years ago has led to the development and operation of a true multi-disciplinary public safety training facility that is used not only by local firefighters, but is now also very heavily used by law enforcement, emergency management, fire police, and mental health personnel,” according to the FCPSTC website.

Ground was broken 20 years ago for the training center on land leased from Franklin County Career and Technology Center, but the vision behind it dates back to a couple of fire chiefs in the early 1970s talking about getting together for standardized training. The Franklin County Fire Chiefs Association was formed in 1977, the group’s first training weekend in St. Thomas drew hundreds of firefighters and subsequent sessions held at Letterkenny Army Depot brought trainees and instructors from the local area as well nearby states.

The vision for a dedicated training center remained and was fueled by seed money of $100,00 from the estate of Tony Gargaro of Chambersburg in the mid-1990s. Additional funding was acquired, including a state grant and $1 per capita from local townships and boroughs that was matched by the county.

The Franklin County Public Safety Training Center is 3075 Molly Pitcher Highway, Chambersburg.

“Twenty years ago, we dug the first dirt out of the ground,” said Randy O’Donnell, chair of the Franklin County Fire Chiefs Association. “Hundreds of dedicated people made this possible.”

In addition to what is now the Burkholder Building, the center includes a classroom building, a burn building and vehicle rescue site for hands-on training.

As of Oct. 7, 952 people had undergone 928 hours of training at the center this year. The list includes fire and rescue, emergency services, law enforcement and mental health.

A peek at the calendar shows FCPSTC is in use five or six days most weeks, including Saturdays and Sundays. Classes run from Essentials of Firefighting and Structural Burn Sessions to Crime Scene Investigation and Canine in the Court Room; from Hazardous Materials Awareness and Incident Command to Fire Police Training and Arson Detection/Awareness; and from Critical Incident Stress and Sobriety Checkpoints to Constable Training and Street Level Drug Investigation.

The FCPSTC partners with CareerTech to train high school students in the fire and rescue program and hosts the Junior Firefighter Academy for young members of area companies. O’Donnell noted relationships his kids started at the Junior Firefighter Academy continue today.

The services provided by people trained at the center benefit everyone who lives in the area and everyone who lives in the area helps contribute to the center. All the municipalities in Franklin County and six in Cumberland County give 20 cents a year per capita, or about $35,000.

The money from municipalities fund infrastructure, repairs and equipment. Recent purchases include a forced entry door simulator, $8,000; fire extinguisher simulator, $12,000; and SCBA air compressor, $35,000.

What’s ahead for the Franklin County Public Safety Training Center?

It will cost far more than 20 cents a person to pay for future development at the center and a $500,000 impact grant is being sought from Franklin County.

The county will award $10 million in impact grants funded by the COVID-19 American Rescue Plan Act. The application review process is just beginning, according to John Thierwechter, assistant county administrator, who was at the training center program Oct. 7.

This drawing shows the site of the non-burn tactical building planned at the Franklin County Public Safety Training Center. It will be located to the west of existing buildings on the site south of Franklin County Career and Technology Center, Chambersburg.

Additional land has been leased from CareerTech to the west of the existing buildings, bringing the FCPSTC property to 8 acres.

The new tactical training building — comprised of a house, garage and five-story tower — will be used for everything except live fire, Byers said, noting, “The burn building gets so dirty … we burn in there all the time.”

The 3,000-square-foot building will be used for training such as smoke drills, search and rescue, hose line advancement, law enforcement entry tactics and stairwell emergencies, as well as classroom space.

The plan also includes water and hydrant improvements and installation of a new, wider driveway.

Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at