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Fire/Rescue agencies train together during expo at RCC

Over 325 first responders returned to the classroom this past week to take part in training exercises during the 48th Annual Southeastern Fire/Rescue College and Law Enforcement Expo at Robeson Community College.

 “This was an opportunity for specialized training in fire, rescue, and advanced law enforcement,” said Robert Ivey, director of fire and rescue training programs at Robeson Community College.

Agencies from across North Carolina could be seen taking part in the 5-day training conference, including the Lumberton Fire Department, Hamlet Fire and Rescue Squad, Rowland Fire Department, Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, Ocean Isle Fire Department, Lovelady Fire Department located in Burke County, Wilkesboro Fire Department, Millers Creek Fire Department located near Boone, and the Elizabeth City Fire Department to name a few.

Also in attendance were 40 nursing students from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, who took part in a mass casualty exercise held at the main campus. 

One attendee said that he had known others who had attended in the past, so he was excited to have the chance to attend this year.

“It took an hour and twenty minutes to get to the college, but it was definitely worth it,” said Billy Currie, a firefighter, and EMT from the Ocean Isle Fire Department.

Currie enrolled in the CPR Instructor certification course.

“I was pleased with the variety of classes the college had to offer; the instructors were top of the line. The instructors knew how to explain the information at a beginner’s level… They broke it down and made it easy to learn… We had a blast.”

 Currie added, “I look forward to getting another flyer and attending again next year.”

Some of the classes available included certification courses like the one Currie took, as well as more practical hands-on training in fighting live fires; technical rescue rope basics; explosives, bombs, and booby traps; extrication of victims from burn towers and simulated wrecked cars; mass casualty scenarios; and more.

Deputy Chief Jonathan Holden with the Lovelady Fire Department says that he is always looking to provide his firefighters with new training, and that’s why he sent his team to Robeson Community College.

“They learn new stuff and they bring it back to the department,” said Holden. “It helps to bring a new perspective with things you learn across the state.”

According to Ivey, firefighters need at least 36-hours of new training each year to stay current in the field.

That was the case for John McCole, a fireman with the Elizabeth City Fire Department, who came for a certification. He drove 4-hours to take part in the TR Ropes Basic class during the conference.

“I’m trying to obtain the technical rescue certification,” said McCole. “The block I took at RCC helped me because I passed the training for that part, I just need two more classes to get certified.”

With state-of-the-art equipment, Ivey says that the training program at RCC is very robust and offers a unique experience for these first responders-turned-students, making it a popular conference to attend.

“We have a rail car, a cargo container, and burn towers, that we set fire to,” stated Ivey.

Although enrollment for this year’s conference was down slightly from previous years, you couldn’t tell it from the excitement of the participants as they geared up to take part in the live-fire exercises.

“It was an experience that most of us don’t get to see in real life,” said Thomas Barfield, a fireman with the Hamlet Fire and Rescue Squad, as he spoke of the live-fire simulation with the rail car.

“We were able to experience first-hand how hot it was and the intensity of it, we had a pretty good time with it… There was an instance where the pattern fell through as we were fighting it, but everyone noticed it pretty quick, and we took care of it…that was when the fire got the hottest,” said Barfield.

“I’m so glad that RCC ran the classes because with Covid, we were not sure, but I’m glad it continued on,” said Barfield. “This was the last class I needed to get my certification.”

This was Barfield’s third time attending the expo, and he says he looks forward to coming again next year.

It was also Jonathon Kyle Dockery’s third time attending. Dockery is the captain/paramedic for the Miller’s Creek Fire Department, located in the mountains of North Carolina.

Dockery who enrolled in the TR Victim Management class said, “RCC was the closest institution offering the classes we needed. Our department drove 200 miles to attend. The training was great, the facilities were nice and clean, and the instructors were very knowledgeable as well.”

“We were completely satisfied with the training,” said Dockery. “It was absolutely worth the drive and we hope to be back for more training soon.”

 

 

 

 

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