Robeson Community College to offer more firefighter training options amid shortage

Pee Dee

ROBESON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTW) — From the classroom to the field, students at Robeson Community College can look forward to more firefighting training courses.

The college will be offering two fire academy options starting in January — a full-time day program and a part-time night program. College officials said the programs are being offered as many government agencies have sounded the alarm and provided a clear warning that the firefighter shortage is real and that it is happening to departments across the nation in communities large and small.

Robert Ivey, the school’s fire training coordinator, said training never stopped during the pandemic, but people’s willingness to do the job, whether volunteering or full time, did. He said he and other staff members will do whatever they can to address the need.

“I started off when I was 16 years old as a volunteer firefighter,” Ivey said. “I did that for about 3 or 4 years. Then I joined a rescue squad where I’ve been at the rescue squad for 43 years.”

For nearly 50 years, Ivey has dedicated his life to helping and saving people in his community, and he said he’s seeing the effects of the pandemic. Now, many are in no rush to put on that uniform, he said.

“And we are also seeing that paid departments are having a problem with an applicant pool getting qualified people to apply for full-time jobs,” he said. “So, we are seeing that as well and there’s no more rewarding career to be involved in than public safety.”

He said he hopes now the day and nighttime training options will attract more students to the same profession he loves.

“There’s a lot of roles that you can be involved within a fire department, not necessarily just fighting fires,” he said. “There’s traffic control, equipment, running the pumps on the engines, things of that nature.”

In the training sessions, students will go through different scenarios in the college’s three-level burn building. They will also learn how to maneuver if a car is on fire, or worse, if someone is trapped inside.

“We’re a delivery agency for the North Carolina Office State Fire Marshal’s,” Ivey said. “So, there are certain courses about 450 hours of certification courses that will certify a person as a firefighter.”

The day academy begins on Jan. 5 and ends on April 9. Classes will be from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. The night academy begins on Jan. 4 and ends on Dec. 15. Classes are from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.

Individuals must be at least 18 years of age to enroll in the program. To register, call Ivey at 910-272-3329 or rivey@robeson.edu.

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