Training Heroes and Heroines

Doing what it does best, this annual event trains the heroes and heroines who put their own lives on the line each and every day to save the lives of others, protect and preserve property and rescue those who have found themselves in harm’s way. These are the men and women whose call it is to work or volunteer as firefighters and emergency medical service and rescue personnel. And these are the folks from across the region will be descending on Marion and McDowell County this weekend to take training classes and certification exams in both basic and advanced specialties within the fields of Fire, Rescue and EMS service.

According to Ronald Morgan, McDowell Tech’s new Director of Fire Training Programs, several changes are taking place at this year’s Fire, Rescue and EMS College to maintain the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and the public as COVID-19 continues to take its toll on communities throughout the state, nation and world. “First, we have cut class size in all programs to about 50% of normal capacity. Secondly, we are ensuring COVID-19 safety guidelines, such as wearing masks, social distancing and handwashing,” he said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a minimum of 64 classes will run over the weekend. Additional on-site registration will continue over the weekend.

For the first time in several decades, all classroom instruction this year will be taking place on the campus of McDowell Technical Community College. A variety of hands-on classes will take place at other locations throughout the county.

“The need for well-trained fire, rescue and EMS personnel is needed now more than ever, and I am pleased our staff have been creative in finding ways that we can continue this important training while maintaining proper health and safety guidelines,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President.

“Moreover, those 800 or so people are eating in our restaurants, staying in our motels, shopping in our stores and generally adding to the local economy and sales tax. While we coordinate this ‘college’ as a service to our Fire, Rescue and EMS community, it is good to know that we are secondarily promoting the local economy as a result of our efforts.”

Approximately 130 instructors, many of whom are experts in their field, will teach classes in basic fire and rescue techniques, as well as advanced classes in subjects like arson investigation, clandestine drug labs, and flammable liquids.  These classes generally fall into three basic categories: rescue (such as land search, rappelling, vehicle rescue, and vehicle extrication), emergency medical services (including aeromedicine) and firefighting (such as pumps, positive pressure ventilation, confined space, flammable liquids, ladders, forcible entry, ventilation, structural firefighting and liquid propane gas).

One of the newest classes, Technical Rescuer Wilderness Rescue, will include 60 hours of instruction over four days and is considered one of the most concentrated and intense courses available at the college. Participants in this class will spend one night in the heavily-wooded area behind the Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center performing rescue operations on property owned by McDowell County.

“In short, we have something for almost everyone who wants training in this field,” said Morgan.

The Fire, Rescue and EMS College is co-sponsored by MTCC and the McDowell County Fire and Rescue Association, with assistance from the McDowell County Emergency Management Agency, the McDowell County Fire Commission, local fire departments and the McDowell County Rescue Association.