Fire Service

Ralph McNemar Ralph McNemar

WVU Extension Fire Service –
Program Coordinator

Adaptability in tough circumstances is a desirable trait for handling emergency situations. That’s exactly what Ralph McNemar, the program coordinator for the West Virginia University Fire Service Extension, is teaching emergency responders across the state.

McNemar is in charge of the mobile Aircraft Rescue Firefighting unit, an airplane fuselage on wheels that offers emergency response personnel intense, hands-on training in live fire situations. Since the unit is portable, it’s available nationwide for disaster drills and tactical law enforcement training.

It’s just one of the WVU Fire Service Extension programs that is able to be tailored for varied audiences in different locations.

“Comprehensive training and the ability to adapt to the audience is key in making sure we’re providing the very best training possible,” said McNemar. “Something that is ingrained in me from my military background and previous employment is the importance of adaptability—it’s a necessity in both leadership and handling emergency situations.”

McNemar joins the WVU Fire Service Extension from the Center for National Response, near Charleston. There, he first served as a senior training and exercise analyst, developing and designing a variety of training exercises for local, state, federal and military groups in areas such as fires, hazardous materials, counter terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. He then progressed to the deputy program manager and director of training where he was responsible for coordinating all training operations and personnel for the center.

The vast majority of West Virginia’s firefighters serve on a volunteer basis, something that McNemar said the adaptability of the WVU Fire Service Extension training pairs well with.

“We want to have the best trained emergency responders to best serve our state,” said McNemar. “This isn’t a nine to five job, we train to standards and not to time—it’s our duty to identify needs, develop programs and tailor our programs to meet the criteria that will best protect our state’s residents and keep firefighters safe.”

McNemar has more than 30 years of experience in firefighting, incident command, technical rescue, hazardous materials, emergency medical and terrorism response.

He earned his associate’s in fire science at the Community College of the Air Force.