More than 50 years ago, leaders in the fire service and adult education recognized that Utah's firefighters were not well trained. At the time, fire departments set their own standards and operating procedures. Four fire training programs existed in the state. Each of these were ineffective freestanding programs, and the meager state funding was split among them. The system did not work.
In 1959, the State Board of Education commissioned a study concluding that all fire training should be consolidated under one agency with a strong emphasis on outreach programs. This plan was put into place in 1960 when Central Utah Vocational School (CUVS) was designated by the Board as the Fire Training School. CUVS later became Utah Technical College (UTC), then Utah Valley Community College (UVCC), then to Utah Valley State College (UVSC), and now Utah Valley University (UVU).
In 1971 the legislature passed the State Fire Prevention Law (HB 347), which allowed the Fire Prevention Board to work with the Board of Regents and the Board of Education to develop a statewide fire training system. State funding, at that time, permitted only one person to coordinate the program and several part-time field instructors to travel the state.
Over the years various attempts were made to formally fund the state academy project but the plans never came to fruition. It was not until 1992 that a coherent and comprehensive strategic plan was developed under the leadership of State Fire Training staff and fire service representatives from all over Utah. The planning process brought together a broad cross section of the fire service and other public officials. These officials agreed on the necessity of maintaining and expanding a centralized training and certification system with a vigorous and comprehensive program of outreach activities. This strategic plan addressed the details of passing legislation with a funding mechanism. It also outlined the multi-year steps required to complete the project.
In 1993 the Utah Legislature passed House Bill 155 (sponsored by then Representative John Valentine and co-sponsored by 30 other legislators), which modified the State Fire Prevention Law and assigned a percentage of insurance premium taxes to a restricted account within the Department of Public Safety to support Fire Academy programs, as defined in the law and in the Administrative Rules of the Fire Prevention Board. The Academy is designated the "Utah Fire & Rescue Academy" (UFRA) in administrative rules. By contract, the Academy operates at UVU and administers a greatly expanded and dynamic training, education, and certification system based on the fundamental idea that the state needs to provide standardized high quality fire and rescue training and support to fire departments wherever they are located. It has become a "one stop shop" devoted to meeting the needs of departments statewide.
The mission of the Fire & Rescue Academy is to "train, validate, and support the fire and emergency services at the highest quality level possible." This statement directs every goal in our Strategic Plan and every dollar spent to implement it.
The Utah Fire & Rescue Academy has evolved into a dynamic organization that provides fire and emergency service related training, professional certification and resource assistance. These services are provided at UFRA through grants and contracts with state and federal agencies. The Academy funding is earmarked for the provision of specific fire training and certification programs.
The Academy is located near the Provo Airport at a 10-acre training facility. It includes a wide range of fixed and mobile simulators to safely train responders in the latest techniques of emergency response to any type of incident. Most training, however, is done around the state on a regional basis that leaves personnel close to their response areas.
Regional classes are done at the Academy and at various fire departments. UFRA Support Services division runs a fleet of over 40 vehicles, mobile props and trailers to support training classes statewide. UFRA has been an innovator in distance education, customer service, certification, outreach activities, and technology.
If the past is any indicator, UFRA will continue to be at the forefront of firefighter and emergency response training.