Written by Alicia Banks
Fayetteville Technical Community College’s Board of Trustees and the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners broke ground on the future site of its joint Regional Fire & Rescue Training Center on Monday. First responders from area fire and law enforcement agencies, state representatives and more attended the ceremony to celebrate the project, which has been nearly a decade in the making.
“Through hard work and devotion and dedication, a lot of people made this happen,” said Dr. J. Larry Keen, president of FTCC. “The one thing we take pride in is being able to work in concert with our first responders in so many ways.”
The future center is a first of its kind in eastern North Carolina. The nearest training facility with similar technology and training is on Gaston College’s campus, the Regional Emergency Services Training Center. Cumberland County Commissioner and Chairwoman Dr. Jeannette Council described the future facility at the intersection of Corporation Drive and Tom Starling Road as an “excellent, excellent facility.”
“Our volunteer fire departments will have access to first-rate, state-of-the-art training facilities that will also attract departments from across the region and state,” she told the crowd. “My gratitude, my everlasting gratitude to every single one of you who works to keep our citizens safe.”
Sharing similar appreciation for the project’s progress was North Carolina Rep. John Szoka (Cumberland County). He forewent his script and spoke directly to the dozens of firefighters and emergency medical service personnel in the audience.
“Before I got involved in politics, I didn’t really know much about the firefighting service,” Szoka said as he looked at the first responders. “It’s one of those things most people take for granted. They don’t know the time, effort and dedication it takes to do what you do. I’m so happy to see this groundbreaking today, not only for our local area, but for the whole region.”
The facility will cost roughly $20 million, and Cumberland County donated the acres to FTCC. Also, the county commissioners have allocated $10 million for the project in its Capital Planning Model, according to the county. In addition, the college plans to use $8 million allocated from the Connect NC Bond for the project.
The future facility will span 30 acres of property, split into two campuses in the Cumberland County Industrial Park near the county’s Sheriff’s Office Training Center and Animal Control Shelter. One campus will be the Technical Rescue Complex, offering classrooms, rescue areas and other specialized training grounds. The facility will also support the college’s Public Service curriculum, which will include courses in emergency management, fire technology and fire training. A new facility would allow FTCC to offer new classes, including fire investigation/arson certification, thermal image school, vehicle extrication school, high angle rescue technician and other types of fire and rescue special training. The second campus will be known as the “Burn Village,” equipped with burn towers and structures. Several consultants with fire training knowledge and experience are assisting HH Architecture on the project, said Kristen Hess, the firm’s president, CEO and business development leader.
Cumberland County and FTCC tapped Raleigh-based HH Architecture to design the center. The firm completed projects for FTCC during the last seven years on its Fayetteville campus – the General Classroom Building, which opened in 2012, and renovations to the Tony Rand Student Center three years later. Hess expressed her and her team’s gratitude for the trust they’ve received in completing the center.
“It’s very gratifying and exciting to work on this with you all,” she said. “It means a lot to us as designers to help in a tiny way, to give back, to the scale and magnitude of the service work that’s being done here. We’re really grateful.”
The center will also provide live fire buildings, apparatus bays, technical rescue areas, specialized training areas, and allow a partnership with the Sheriff’s Office in using its driving track and possibly space for an outdoor shooting range. Furthermore, there will be additional training facilities for member departments of the Cumberland County Fire Chiefs’ Association and other emergency responders. Association president and fire chief of Stoney Point Fire Department Freddy Johnson Sr. described the groundbreaking as “historic,” noting the project’s halts through the years because of minimal resources.
“I can also tell you that the members from our service and chiefs that are present share that excitement,” he said. “My parents taught me early on to be appreciative and say thank you so I want to start out today thanking all of you who made today possible.”
Before the ceremony’s end, Dr. Keen thanked attendees for their support. He reminded them one way for first responders are able to confront disasters with confidence and come home safely is with proper training and education.
“And there’s no other group that trains more than these folks do, to do that and do it safely,” he said. “I know your families want you to get home safely, and we want you to get home safely. We want to be a part of that success that you enjoy as we go on.”
Other partners involved in the project include Elliott, LeBoeuf & McElwain; Stanford White, Lynch Mykins and Stewart.