New CCCC Firefighter Academy graduates 18
SANFORD - June 29 was a night of firsts for Central Carolina Community College - 18 firsts, in fact.
Eighteen cadets graduated that evening from CCCC's first-ever Firefighter Academy program, a six-month course designed to train and certify aspiring firefighters in every aspect of the profession.
Development of the program had been a goal of the college since the mid-1990s. Joey Shue, retired captain of the Sanford Fire Department and the college's Fire and Rescue coordinator, was instrumental in putting together the curriculum.
Since his retirement in 1997, he has overseen the college's training of firefighters from the local area and around the state. He and Wilbert "Tramp" Dunn, retired captain of the Raleigh Fire Department, serve as the Firefighter Academy's coordinators. The academy is offered through the college's Continuing Education Department.
"The establishment of this program and this first graduating class makes me feel wonderful," Shue said. "Having this academy here is good for the fire departments, good for the communities they serve, good for the students, and good for the college because we are meeting the needs of our communities."
Landis Phillips, the college's ETSC director, told the packed house at the graduation at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center that the graduates had been through a lot in the six-month course.
"To me, the past six months have flown by - but to these cadets, it may not seem that way," he said. "They've been introduced to a massive amount of education and have had to master a great many skills."
Cadets graduating from the academy had to pass 21 separate classes that new hires at fire departments would have to take individually, as well as earn certifications in emergency medical rescue, vehicle machine rescue and hazardous materials response. The course ran eight hours per day, five days per week for six months.
"During this time, these cadets were basically full-time students, or really, more than full-time students," Phillips said. "They carried a heavy load - it was a total of 833 hours altogether - and many of them had part-time jobs."
All 18 of the cadets are on staff at volunteer fire departments throughout the central North Carolina region, and Phillips said all are actively seeking employment as paid firefighters. While the academy isn't necessary to become a firefighter, Phillips said it puts candidates far ahead of the competition.
"These cadets came out of the academy way ahead of the game," he said. "All of the things these cadets learned are things they'd have to learn one piece at a time, so having all of the certifications puts them that far ahead."
At the graduation ceremony, the cadets' friends and family members packed the Civic Center, looking for a glimpse of their loved one. Another family was also in attendance: Firefighters and emergency responders from across the region showed up to welcome new members into what many described as "a family" or "brotherhood."
Chief Matthew Poole of the Garner Fire Department was the graduation's keynote speaker and told the cadets to always put others first.
"In the fire service, you never base your decisions on luck or chance. You base your decisions on what's best for the people you're serving," Poole said. "There are a lot of young guys who want to know what they need to do to be a firefighter, and I could give 100 different answers. But the one thing that stands out is putting other people first. You serve others and put them ahead of yourself."
The first Firefighter Academy graduates are: Danielle Currin, Benhaven Emergency Services; Devin Watson, Spout Springs E.S.; John Cagle, Lemon Springs Fire Department; Dustin Walden, Buies Creek F.D.; A.J. Collazo, Lemon Springs F.D.; Scottie Swindell, Northwest Pocket F.D.; Aaron Stutts, Spout Springs E.S.; Devon Fujinami, Lemon Springs F.D.; Michael Beal, Northview F.D.; Andrew Pilkington, Goldston F.D.; Dylan Lowe, Pittsboro F.D.; Matthew Bielli, West Area F.D.; Joshua Baker, Lemon Springs F.D.; Joshua Barefoot, Benson F.D.; Wesley Godwin, Elevation F.D.; Michael Roberson, Lemon Springs F.D.; Jonathan Baker, Lemon Springs F.D.; and John Reese, Northwest Pocket F.D.
CCCC currently offers the Firefighter Academy twice per year. For more information about the program, contact Shue at the Emergency Services Training Center at (919) 777-7778.
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