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Heroes Among Us – SCC Fire Academy Students

SCC Fire Academy Logo“Our public safety personnel are the heroes among us,” said Michelle Bauer, director of the Continuing Education Fire and Rescue program. “They are the folks that when you call 9-1-1, they’re always there.

Four SCC Fire Academy students exceptionally exemplified their intended professions on a sunny Friday last February.

Rebecca Sipe, a student at the College, was outside Van Dusen Hall when she got a call that her mother had passed away from lung cancer. As Rebecca was being overcome by grief, Fire Academy students Dillion Ratkowski, Conner Buss, Trevor Patterson, and James Roth, who were on their lunch break, saw her and rushed to help.

“My unsung heroes appeared out of nowhere,” Rebecca said. “These men came and lifted me off the curb. I remember someone asking my name, and if they could call someone for me. Another gathered my things; the other two helped me return my breathing to a consistent rate.

“My mind kept asking, ‘Who are these heroes?’ They refused to leave me no matter what I said or how many times I told them I would be okay. They would not take ‘No’ for an answer. They were right; I was in complete shock. I barely knew my name, realizing I should seek help was unlikely in the state of mind I was in.”

Image of SCC student Rebecca Sipe.

Student Rebecca Sipe

The four students drove Rebecca forty minutes to her house. “I was in no condition to drive,” said Rebecca. They made sure that she was safe at home, and, “Like, true heroes, they drove off into the sunset,” Rebecca said.

Rebecca later reached out to Fire Academy instructors to make sure they knew how their students had helped her and to send her thanks to them all.

Michelle Bauer said that the students’ actions “Fit so much into our program core values of doing the right thing and helping others above all else.”

“These young men typify the caliber and integrity of those drawn into this career,” said Academy Director Chad Thomason. “They showed care and responsibility toward someone in need.”

“At first, we were unsure of the situation at hand,” said Dillon, “but between our training and morals, the thought to act was irrefutable. We thought of our own mothers, sisters, aunts, and loved ones. We simply tried to take care of Rebecca the way we hoped our family members would have been taken care of in their time of need.

“The qualities instilled in us growing up, have been exemplified by the opportunities afforded to us by the Sandhills Fire Academy. Like many others in the fire service, we joined to help others. We would have done the same thing, regardless of our career field, and hope others would as well.”

SCC Fire Academy to Begin in July

Launched in 2012, the Fire Academy at Sandhills Community College is now accepting applications for the class that begins Tuesday, July 7.

At the end of this full-time program, cadets will have earned Firefighter I/II, Hazardous Materials Level 1 Responder, and Technical Rescuer certifications. Students will also take EMT-Basic as part of the program and, upon successful completion, will be eligible to take the state certification exam.

Students will have the opportunity to participate in or observe advanced training with surrounding departments, many of who provide support, equipment use, and accommodations for students when needed. Full- or part-time job opportunities are available at most local fire departments.

With a few exceptions for specialized training, classes are from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. on Fridays for this six-month course of study that ends on December 18.

“Those who have graduated from the Fire Academy include recent high school graduates beginning a career and those who have been in the workforce and plan to change careers,” says Academy Director Chad Thomason. “We have had many who have come out of the military train to become firefighters. Other students have served in a volunteer capacity for local fire departments and decide to make it a career.

“The Fire Academy offers a thorough course of study at our state-of-the-art Caddell Training Center, which includes a residential burn building, a four-story drill tower, control tower, burn and auto extraction pits, and other components. It is our team of highly qualified, experienced, and dedicated instructors who make this program a success.”

The Larry R. Caddell Public Safety Training Center is at 333 Niagara-Carthage Road in Carthage. A 360° virtual tour of the facility is available on the College’s website. Go to and click the “Campus Tour” link and then the link to the center.


Those interested in being members of this Fire Academy class should request information and an application packet from Michelle Bauer, Sandhills’ Fire and Rescue Director at (910) 695-3774 or

Current volunteer firefighters may be eligible for a fee waiver based on their membership with a local, city, county, or state fire department.

Other SCC Fire Classes and Programs

The Continuing Education division offers night and weekend firefighter certification classes in nine areas. The Curriculum division offers an associate degree in Fire Protection Technology and can be taken and completed online.

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