[Photo: Chief Donnie Smith of Raeford Fire Department, Fire Academy graduate Sol Vasquez of Aberdeen Fire Department, Chief Freddy Johnson of Stoney Point Fire Department and Training Captain David Schroer of Hillcrest Fire Department with the retired fire engine that will have a second career training future firefighters.]
By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Even after carrying firefighters into the thick of fire and accident scenes for more than three decades, the engine of the fire truck parked under a shelter at Stoney Point Fire Department started right up with a strong, loud rumble.
Stripped of the Stoney Point name, it still carried axes, ladders and other equipment as it rolled out from the station. The truck originally manufactured in 1985 came to its new home in Hoke County Monday, where trainers will use it to help teach young people how to be the next generation of firefighters.
Several years ago, Sandhills Community College and Hoke County High School teamed up to offer a firefighter academy for high school students through the Career and Technical Education program. The academy is approved by the North Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshal and the North Carolina Community College system, and makes use of a burn tower located on the Hoke County High School campus.
Students who take the class are able to work toward completing their North Carolina Firefighter Certification. Some of the topics covered are emergency medical care, fire behavior, personal protective equipment, ventilation and water supplies, according to program information.
Chief Freddy Johnson of Stoney Point Fire Department, who previously served with emergency management under the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office, organized the donation of the fire truck. It had served as a backup for the station, but wasn’t needed anymore.
“It’s in good shape. It was our reserve engine for years,” Johnson said.
When deciding what to do with the older truck, Johnson thought of the Fire Training Academy. He still works with folks from Hoke County and cares about the county, Johnson said.
“I thought that would be a good home for it,” he said.
Part of the academy training involves students getting hands-on experience working on and around fire trucks and other equipment. In the past, trainers have had to borrow a truck from one of the local fire stations to be able to teach those lessons. Now, they’ll be able to use the decommissioned fire truck of their very own.
Raeford Fire Department Chief Donnie Smith joined Hillcrest Fire Department Training Captain David Schroer Monday to pick up the vehicle. Smith also serves as the fire and rescue field administrator for Sandhills Community College.
The truck and the equipment on it will make things easier for the instructors, the students and the fire departments that were loaning out their trucks, Smith said.
“This is kind of like the icing on the cake, getting a fire engine for our kids, young adults. They’ll be working pulling hose, working the ladders, actually getting stuff off, the fire apparatus that they’ll be working with throughout their careers,” he said.
The program is only a few years old, but has already had an impact on students’ lives. Several of the students have gone on to continue to work with fire departments in the area. Sol Vasquez, one of the graduates, works with the Aberdeen Fire Department and accompanied Smith and Schroer to pick up the fire engine.
The Hoke fire training program representatives thanked Johnson and the Stoney Point officers, board of directors and members for the donation. Hillcrest Fire Department will house the engine until the program can build a shelter to store the vehicle.