(left to right): Steven Curtis, Lauren Bystrack, Keith Rakowski and Dawson Jones.

Driven by Courage: Four Graduate from BCCC’s Third Fire Academy

Fueled by fire, driven by courage, the third academy of fire fighters graduated from Beaufort County Community College on May 26. The academy, trained by a team of 18 first responders from the area, finished with four students honored. The cohort included Lauren Bystrack and Keith Rakowski Jr. of Washington, Steven Curtis of Old Ford and Dawson Jones of Pinetown.

Students earned certifications in firefighting, HazMat responder, emergency vehicle driving, technical rescuer and vehicle rescue. All of the students currently serve as volunteer firefighters in the respective communities.

Rakowski already works with the Washington Fire, Rescue and EMS Department. The class selected him as its class leader to speak at the graduation ceremony.

The program gives volunteer firefighters the opportunity to achieve an academy-style training in this region. The only full-time fire department in the BCCC service area is the Washington Fire, Rescue and EMS Department. The rest of the firefighters in the service area are volunteers. Some graduates will continue in their role as volunteers, but with significantly more training.

With the expansion of emergency services training at BCCC, a number of students have returned for EMS, paramedic or fire training. This not only makes them more capable of saving lives, it helps round out their training as a professional rescue worker.

All three academies have made use of a state-of-the-art fire training facility where students practice working in dark and confined spaces, rappelling and working with smoke. Students participate in Public Safety Weekend in March with professional and volunteer firefighters from across the region as they train. A combination of the academy, the training weekend and the facility help to decrease home insurance costs in the area due to the preparedness of local fire departments.

BCCC will start its fourth fire academy on August 14, with a mandatory meeting on July 31 for students. Classes take place Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and every other Saturday, on evenings during the week and all day on Saturdays. Class size is limited to 20 so register early.

For more information about the fire academy, contact Johnny Williams at 252-940-6363 or johnny.williams@beaufortccc.edu.