The $1.7 million building, the result of a partnership between the Leary Firefighters Foundation and EMC Corp., will service firefighters throughout Central Massachusetts.
"It's bigger than I thought it was going to be," Leary said after touring the facility yesterday. "It's great to remember the guys and help current firefighters train."
Leary started his foundation in the aftermath of the December 1999 warehouse fire. Among those killed were Leary's cousin, Jeremiah Lucey, and Hopedale resident Timothy Jackson.
The building features photographs of the six firefighters and other famous local fires.
"At the same time (that firefighters train), they're passing by pictures and they'll be forced almost to confront these events and these six guys," said Leary, the star and co-creator of "Rescue Me," a television show about New York City firefighters. "It's almost like a firefighters' hall of fame."
The training center includes classrooms with advanced technology, has space for a weight room, and will serve as a command post for Massachusetts during statewide emergencies.
The training aspect is important to EMC, said Bill Teuber, the company's vice chairman.
"The people who are the best trained will be the most successful," Teuber said. "I'm so honored to be helping not just Worcester firefighters but other firefighters in the area."
Fire departments can call the Worcester fire chief and schedule a time to train, according to Elissa Rogovin, of Warner Communications, a public relations group working with the Leary Foundation. It is geared toward Central Massachusetts but has already been used by fire departments as far away as Boston, Rogovin said. She said fire departments wouldn't be turned down as long as there's space.
The weight room is a key element, since heart attacks are a major cause of death for firefighters, said Worcester Fire Chief Gerard Dio.
"This is the best way to get fit," Dio said.
The new building is several years in the making and is the second part of a project that began with the 2002 unveiling of a burn tower training facility.
"Things like this don't happen often," said Dio, standing in between the burn tower and the new training facility, the air still smelling of smoke from a recent exercise.
The Worcester Fire Department had its first organized training 100 years ago, Dio said.
"In 2007 we finally get our own facility," he said. "It's like a real school."
Leary thanked EMC, which has given almost $1 million to the foundation, for its cooperation and funding.
"EMC has been with us since the very beginning," Leary said. "They've been really instrumental with everything. We literally could not have done it without them."
Officials yesterday expressed excitement that experiences in the classroom, weight room and training equipment could happen in one place.
The grounds were never this extensive in the past, said Worcester firefighter Gary Anger.
"It's long overdue," he said. "It's a modern training facility."
Leary posed for pictures with Fire Department representatives, city officials and relatives of deceased firefighters Lucey and Paul Brotherton.
"I couldn't be happier," Leary said. "Onward and upward."
Leary said he is "sure" the foundation will add on to the new training facility.
"It's just a dream come true."
Republished with permission of The Milford Daily News.