Indiana fireworks tax raises millions for training

The people who bought fireworks to set off around the Fourth of July holiday helped to fund firefighter training across Indiana.

State budget officials said Indiana took in $2.5 million from the special 5-percent public safety tax on fireworks during the 2011 fiscal year that ended June 30. That indicates about $51 million in retail fireworks sales around the state during that time, The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne reported Thursday.

The tax has been in effect since 2006. In previous years, the state has collected between $2.4 million and $2.7 million, for a five-year total of more than $12.5 million.

Most of that money has gone to standardize and upgrade firefighter training around the state. A fund for local disaster relief also has a balance of about $2 million.

"The training in the state of Indiana has greatly increased as well as the standardization," Auburn Fire Department Division Chief Doug Cox said. "A lot of firefighters now have training that may not have been accessible before."

Before that state funding was available, departments around Indiana handled training on their own. Sometimes local taxpayers paid for it; sometimes the firefighters themselves shelled out the money.

The state is now divided into 10 training councils. For instance, the northeast Indiana region receives about $100,000 a year to provide training free to firefighters.

Cox said the money also pays the instructors and has bought many firefighting props such as chain saws, hose, roof ventilation simulators and live fire simulators.

John Erickson, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the training money, said the state has also bought a mobile fire trainer and hazardous materials trainer that can be requested anywhere around the state.

Records show that more than 11,000 firefighters a year have trained on the state equipment.

Erickson said more than just basic training courses are available. Some specific classes are for flashover detection and swift water rescues.

"It's completely different than it used to be," he said.

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