National Academy Better Be Good If It’s to Be Used
The Editor s Opinion Page
According to the National Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974, “The Secretary (of Commerce) shall establish, at the earliest practicable date, a National Academy for Fire Prevention and Control. The purpose of the academy shall be to advance the professional development of fire service personnel and other persons engaged in fire prevention and control activities.”
The site must be selected by October 29, 1976 at a cost of no more than $9 million.
To us the earliest practicable date means that the National Fire Academy should start functioning in its own installation sometime in 1977, the earlier the better. And to get this date, the Secretary must not only select a site, but a site that already has a building on it, complete with plumbing, heating and other utilities, ready for occupancy with, of course, some alterations.
And it should be a first-class facility! One that an affluent architect or builder wouldn’t mind spending a few nights in for a seminar. One that a fire fighter would be proud to bring his wife and kids to for a certificate presentation ceremony.
After all, if it wasn’t for the fire service—the men who are responsible to their communities for fire protection—there wouldn’t be any proposed academy or, for that matter, any National Fire Prevention and Control Administration. It was the fire service, almost alone, that demanded after 200 years of neglect, a federal focus on the fire problem. It was the fire service that pushed for, and got passed, the Fire Research and Safety Act of 1968, from which evolved the National Fire Prevention and Control Act of 1974, the NFPCA and the academy.
We mention all this because we have heard of some of the sites offered at the site selection committee hearings. We find them unsuitable because they are either too old, too inadequate, or too far from a transportation hub, among other reasons. We also heard of land being offered on which to build the academy. This really gave us a chill.
Putting the academy on a drawing board in 1976 would probably mean that occupancy would take place in 1982 or later, which is completely unacceptable.
Back a year or so ago, we went on record as favoring Washington, D.C., or its environs as the “location” for the academy. But at the same time we had a “first-class” installation in mind. The first-class part came before the location. We weren’t thinking of some tired installation left over from World War II or some governmental unit’s white elephant.
So, no matter where the academy is located, it better be acceptable to the fire service, and available at a very early “practicable date.” If it isn’t, it won’t be used and the academy concept will go down the drain, probably taking the NFPCA along with it.