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RCC’s Fire and Rescue College sees a 27% increase in attendance

Despite being a cold, rainy weekend, the 49th Southeastern Fire and Rescue Conference at Robeson Community College experienced a 27% increase in attendance this year compared to last year. That’s an increase of 88 students, with 414 first responders signing in between February 8 and February 12.

“We were happy to see the increase,” stated Robert Ivey, the director of the fire and rescue training programs at RCC. “It is vital that our first responders receive the specialized training they need, especially during this time when most departments across the state are experiencing shortages in staffing.”

Training included challenging live-fire scenarios involving state-of-the-art facilities which included a rail car, cargo container, and burn towers. Other training consisted of technical rescuer training, grain bin rescue, water pump training, extrication, various firefighter certifications, and an EMS Leadership Academy, which filled to capacity.

During the training exercises, you could see first-hand how quickly first responders must react.

“This is where the training kicks in… when you get to the scene of an accident or a fire, you have to know your equipment, you have to know how to use the tools available to you, and you must be able to act quickly,” said Ivey. “You literally have only seconds to figure it out.”


Grain Bin Rescue Training


“With the grain bin rescue, for example, you are trying to rescue a person so that they don’t suffocate, so you need to know how to get that person out and how to respond to the situation, and our training teaches that and gives first-responders hands-on experience that they can draw back on,” Ivey said.

Jessica Lasich, a firefighter with the Lumberton Fire Department, says the conference allowed her to gain valuable experience this past weekend as she learned extrication techniques that will ultimately help her save lives.

“This past weekend was awesome, I’m more of a ropes person, but I wanted to get a better handle on extrication,” said Lasich. “The training taught us how to get a faster response time to get patients out and improve upon what we are already doing.”

“We learned alternative extrication techniques that were more patient-friendly, such as when to move before any other options are available,” Lasich stated. “It was a really great class, I would highly recommend it.”

Jessica Lasich, on the left, works with fellow firefighters during training to move the car from the jersey barrier to extricate patient.

Being a female firefighter Lasich says comes with some limitations.

“We don’t have the same physique as males, but I have a great crew and we work together to complement each other,” Lasich said. “I wish more women would consider becoming a firefighter, it is an extremely rewarding career and it is challenging… nothing is ever the same, every day is different… Even though it is a male-dominated field, I don’t feel any different… we are all firefighters.”

Being local, Lasich says she trains at RCC often and has been to the expo quite a few times.

“I love it, Lasich said. “RCC offers some of the absolute best firefighter training in the area… it’s phenomenal.”

For Dustin Swaim, a firefighter with the Mt. Airy Fire Department, the conference was an opportunity to gain the skills needed for his job.

Dustin Swaim of Mt. Airy, trains with firefighters from Salemburg and Faucette, during a Fireground Ops Certification class at Robeson Community College.

“The college offered the classes I needed,” Swaim said. “I was trying to get certified to catch up on job requirements and RCC offered the class I needed.”

Swaim says this was his first time attending, but that he would be back in the future.

“I got certified and I would be interested in coming back again,” Swaim stated.

Captain Gene Martin with the Horry County Fire and Rescue in South Carolina, says that he has been coming to Robeson Community College in Lumberton for years and tries to take as many classes as he can.

“I try to support the local training,” said Martin, who took the Fatal Fire Investigations training. “I always learn something new.”

Martin says during this event he learned how to protect fire scenes with fatal outcomes, an unfortunate scenario and one that he hopes he doesn’t occur, but if it does, he knows he will be more prepared for it thanks to the training he received this past weekend.

Gregory Odell, a training officer with the Gray’s Creek Fire Department, enrolled in the Technical Rescue Ropers Basic course.

“It was good, I’m just starting to get my TR,” said Odell. “I always enjoy my classes at Robeson Community College, the instructors are great and they help you with everything you need.”

Odell says that RCC has made it easy for him to transfer his training for Fire 1 and Fire 2 from Alabama to North Carolina and also just finished his EMT certification with RCC.

“I send a lot of my people to RCC for training,” Odell said. “It’s just a great place.”

Fire and rescue training takes place at RCC throughout the year with various classes available. To learn more, contact Robert Ivey at (910) 272-3329 or


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