Training center inaugurated by veteran firefighter

Lonnie Brown thrilled to teach first class at campus in South Coatesville 

By Kathleen Brady SheaManaging Editor, The Times

Instructor Lonnie Brown says the county’s new training center is a dramatic improvement over the makeshift classrooms he’s used in the past.

Plans for a Chester County Public Safety Training Campus languished for half a century before coming to fruition on Sunday with the opening of the first phase of the complex: an education center.

An Oxford man has a firefighting history that goes back even longer, making him an ideal choice to inaugurate a training program at the new facility in South Coatesville on Monday night.

Lonnie Brown, the county’s elder statesman of fire-safety training, said he was delighted to be able to teach the first class in what was once a research and development building for Lukens Steels and then ArcelorMittal, part of a 95-acre tract the county purchased for the complex. The course – Pumper/Driver Operator – is one that Brown knows well.

Brown, who retired in 2000 from Bethlehem Steel, has worked actively as a firefighter since 1956 and still serves as a driver/operator for the Union Fire Company in Oxford.  He became an instructor in 1968. He is a nationally- certified Fire Service Instructor I and nationally-certified Fire Firefighter I.  In 2000, he was honored as  “Keystone Educator of the Year,” county officials said.

Instructor Lonnie Brown is eager to impart the wisdom he’s gleaned during 56 years of firefighting.

When he’s not fighting fires or teaching safety instruction, Brown lives  with his wife, Jane, in Oxford; they have 3 sons and 5 grandchildren, two of whom are fifth-generation firefighters.  The strength of the firefighting gene should come as no surprise: Brown’s wife was one of  the first active women firefighters in Oxford.

In a recent interview, Brown said he was thrilled that Chester County no longer lagged behind other counties by not having its own training facility, a shortcoming that sometimes forced emergency responders to rely on piecemeal, makeshift conditions. “Human life is equally important everywhere,” he said, adding that the new facility will improve the county’s ability to keep responders and citizens safe.

The second phase of the 95-acre campus will involve the construction of a four-acre tactical village, enabling responders to hone rescue skills in realistic surroundings such as trenches or sloping roadways. The final segment will be an indoor shooting range.



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