Fire, Rescue and EMS College This Weekend


Get ready to witness courage and bravery in training this weekend in McDowell County. The 41st Annual McDowell Fire, Rescue and EMS College will take place over the next several days throughout McDowell, with approximately 1,200 students already registered from cities and towns throughout the state.

“As of this morning, we had 1,196 individuals pre-registered for training,” said Brad Ledbetter, Director of Continuing Education at McDowell Tech. Ledbetter coordinates the Fire, Rescue and EMS College on behalf of McDowell Tech and local emergency services agencies. About 75% of these folks come from the western end of the state, west of I-77, with the remaining folks hailing from all over the state, including both Kitty Hawk and Murphy, which are at the extreme ends of the state. Several additional folks who work in North Carolina but live in states adjacent to North Carolina have registered for classes.

“Several years ago, we had ‘show’ rates in the mid-to-high ‘80’s, percentage wise,” Ledbetter stated, “but the last couple of years, 91-92 % of those who register have shown-up for class. So we expect at least 1,100 or so of those who are pre-registered to show up,” Ledbetter stated.

“However, we also add anywhere from 100 to 150 people each year from folks who just show up and register on-site. So, bottom line, we’ll probably still have at least 1,200 people training with us this weekend. That is close to or a little better than last year’s numbers.”

Dr. John Gossett, President of McDowell Tech was also quick to point out that, “…those 1,200 or so people are folks who are also staying in our hotels, shopping in our stores during the evening, eating in our restaurants and generally adding to the local economy and sales tax. We do this as a service to the fire, rescue and EMS community, but it is nice that we can also promote our economy in the process.”

Three new classes have been added to this year’s agenda: Advanced Self-Defense for First Responders, Disaster Response Training, and a second Mass Casualty course, which joins the very popular course of the same name offered to high school students who are taking classes through local Emergency Services programs.

“In total, we are running 76 classes this year. Most years we have to cancel 10-12 classes due to low enrollment, but this year we have only cancelled three classes, so that is good news for folks who might need classes that have been cancelled in previous years,” said Ledbetter.

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, rapelling, 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).

The McDowell Fire and Rescue College is the state’s largest fire and rescue college, and is one of the largest in the southeastern U.S.  A small number of classes began on the McDowell Tech campus this morning, with additional classes scheduled for Friday morning and evening (7-10 pm), Saturday (9 am-5 pm) and Sunday (8 am-until ?).

While the lion’s share of these classes will take place at McDowell High School and McDowell Tech, there are a number of other training locations throughout McDowell County, including two areas on Sugar Hill Road. Driver training for Fire Engines will take place below Murphy Oil at the site of the old Sugar Hill Truck Stop.

“Our live-burn classes will also take place on Saturday at 1511 Sugar Hill Road, across from the entrance to McDowell Hospital,” said Ledbetter. “While this is a good location for a live-burn class, we encourage local folks who may be travelling this road on Saturday to be safe and use caution as they pass the burn area. We also ask them to remember that this area needs to remain open and clear for emergency traffic entering the hospital.”

Two small houses will be burned at this location. These houses and the adjoining land have been purchased for development of a pediatric dentist office and were made available for firefighter training by the new owners.

Additional live burn classes will be held at the Fire Training Grounds on Old Greenlee Road. These include classes on liquid propane (LP) gas fires, flammable liquid fires, and more general classes related to structural fire ventilation and live-burn simulation, which will occur in two different structures on the Old Greenlee property.

In addition to classroom activities and hands-on training, fire and rescue personnel will be able to purchase items from approximately 50 vendors selling everything from fire and rescue equipment to t-shirts and flashlights.  Vendor displays will be in the commons, gymnasium and outdoor areas at McDowell High School, where many of the classroom activities will also take place. 

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.