ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Originally built in the mid-1970s, the Allentown Fire Academy is getting a huge makeover, nearly 50 years later.

It's where future firefighters and EMS personnel learn the ropes, and not just for first responders in Allentown. Officials say the program already services neighboring cities Bethlehem and Easton.

"We have jurisdictions as far out as Scranton, Lancaster, Manheim and others asking about our program," Chief Freddie Agosto, with the Allentown Fire Dept., said.

But it's even more than that.

"When my daughters had active shooter drills, this is where they come," said Pennsylvania state Rep. Peter Schweyer, D-22, said.

And now the training site will finally be able to help all those farther-out jurisdictions that inquire about it.

Assistant Chief of Training & Safety, Matt Eharth, says the upcoming brand-new Fire Academy and Emergency Operations Center in Allentown was a long-time coming.

"It's replacing something that used to exist in 2013 that was taken away and we're finally getting it back," he said.

The previous classrooms were all torn down in 2013, when officials planned on selling the land. But they never did. Meaning, with the upgrades, the training area will go from using about 800 square feet to 10,000 square feet.

"This facility would be designed as the crowned jewel for fire and EMS training for Allentown and the entire region," said Fire Lt. Jeremy Warmkessel, who serves as local 302 president with the International Association of Firefighters.

The new facility will have five administrative offices, two fire academy offices, classroom space that can accommodate up to 100 individuals, and mixed storage space for classroom and hands-on training equipment.

The building will also house the city's first-ever Emergency Operations Center.

"The center's going to be equipped with state of the art audio/visual equipment, secure communication and receivers and emergency backup power generator," Rep. Susan Wild, D-7, said. "All of which of course are critical to protecting our people."

Officials plan on using the high-tech space for emergencies like weather events and other events, like festivals and marathons.

"We're making this significant investment to create this hub because we realize the long-term impact it will have," Mayor Matt Tuerk, D-Allentown, said. "Not only for the community here in Allentown, but for the entire region."

Officials tell 69 News it all started with funding from local politicians. State Sen. Pat Browne's office helped secure $250,000, while Wild secured $130,000, all in grant money.

City Council then approved using American Rescue Plan dollars to offset the rest, according to officials, all in all accounting for $2.34 million.

"As the third largest city in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, a transportation hub and headquarters for the regional power supplier," Wild said, "Allentown has long needed a fully functional emergency operations center."

Officials anticipate the new site to open by February 2023.

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