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FTCC celebrates opening of ‘state-of-the-art’ fire and rescue training center

Indoor facility will be used for classes for first responders along East Coast


Rather than cutting the traditional ribbon on Monday, FTCC uncoupled the hose.

Fayetteville Technical Community College dedicated the FTCC/Cumberland County Regional Fire and Rescue Training Center, where state-of-the-art fire and rescue training programs will be offered for first responders.

The spacious facility is on Tom Starling Road.

According to FTCC, it will be the only college in the state to offer “sophisticated, high-level training” such as using burn buildings, an aircraft trainer, rappelling tower with zip-line capability, and a swift-water rescue center in one location.

The training program will offer certification courses that allow firefighters to keep their certifications and skills up to date, FTCC said.

“It has been a joint effort of a lot of good people working hard together and making a variety of things happen. It will benefit the people of this area and the state,” said Fayetteville Tech President Larry Keen.

“This has been a dream that we’ve worked on for a number of years,” Keen said. “Started off at a short meeting about playing, ‘What if?’ and ‘Maybe’ and ‘What do you think we can do?’ That developed over time and came together in a way that is absolutely phenomenal. … We’re going to expect great things out of it.''

The college estimates the project will cost a total of $47 million. Funding includes $11 million in state bond money, $10 million from Cumberland County and $20 million appropriated by the N.C. General Assembly.

Cumberland County Board of Commissioners Chairman Glenn Adams noted that the county also donated the 30 acres where the center was built.

The center is at 775 Tom Starling Road, not far from the county Animal Services Center and the Mann + Hummel factory. The building includes simulation labs, classrooms and offices.

A groundbreaking was held in October 2019.

“I know it’s hot out there, but this is a big deal. I’m excited. Not only for myself, but for our firefighters, rescue technicians and first responders,” said Freddy Johnson Sr., president of the Cumberland County Fire Chiefs Association.

“For the Cumberland County fire service, today is Christmas in September,” Johnson quipped. ”And I’m sure all the members of the fire service here agree with me. And they’re just as excited.”

Monday’s “hose uncoupling” ceremony was a tribute to the firefighting and rescue profession. Firefighters use metal coupling to connect hoses to water sources or other hoses.

From behind a facsimile of a red Pierce Manufacturing firetruck, speakers addressed about 300 people who attended the dedication.

Guests included county and city officials, law enforcement leaders, members of the General Assembly and Congress, and judicial representatives.

Monday also marked the groundbreaking for the second phase of the project, the Swift Water Rescue Training Center, scheduled for completion in the spring. FTCC says it will be the only indoor facility of its kind on the East Coast.

“I’ve been in the fire service with Fayetteville for 30 years, and this is the best facility I’ve ever seen,” said Kevin Morgan, assistant fire chief for the Fayetteville Fire Department. “This facility compares with any large city metro center.”

Chief Jason Autry of Bethany Rural Fire Department in Stedman said the center will open opportunities for other community colleges to enhance their fire and rescue training.

“It’s going to be a good thing for Cumberland and surrounding counties, …” Autry said.

The Swift Water Rescue Training Center will be used to train for rescues in fast-moving water, including rescuing people stuck in flooded cars and houses.

College officials say it will be used to train rescue personnel from Virginia to Florida.

The manufactured tank that will be installed will hold 88,000 gallons of water, said FTCC spokeswoman Catherine Pritchard.

"It's not often I'm overwhelmed," said County Commissioner Jimmy Keefe, who was credited during Monday’s ceremony for the idea to build the center. "This building is amazing."

Keefe previously served as fire commissioner for Cumberland County.

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView . He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com

Fayetteville, Cumberland County, fire and rescue, emergency services, FTCC, Fayetteville Technical Community College