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A man walks on a fire truck ladder extended over a water tank where another man sits on top of a submerged car.

Attendees at the Swift Water Rescue Training Facility ribbon-cutting ceremony watch as FTCC instructors demonstrate a water rescue. [Photo by Natasha Brown]

Fayetteville Technical Community College unveiled its state-of-the-art Swift Water Rescue Training Facility on Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The ceremony, held at the swift water facility on the Dr. J. Larry Keen Regional Fire and Emergency Training Complex, marked the opening of the only indoor swift water rescue training facility on the East Coast.

“This is a unique regional center that will really set Cumberland County apart and assist our fire and rescue personnel with receiving the highest quality professional training available anywhere in the United States,” FTCC President Dr. Mark Sorrells said.

The Swift Water Rescue Training Facility includes a 80- by 40-foot tank that can be filled up to 6 feet, allowing rescuers to train in 140,000 gallons of water. Ten electric-powered pumps stationed across the end of the tank can create surface water speeds of up to 7 knots and undercurrents at speeds of up to 3 knots.

The training facility can be adapted to simulate day or nighttime lighting, various weather conditions and multiple rescue scenarios.

The facility held its first classes last week.

A group of people cut a ribbon in front of a brick building that has Swift Water Rescue written on it.

FTCC President Dr. Mark Sorrells (center) and other dignitaries cut the ribbon in front of the Swift Water Rescue Training Center on Nov. 13, 2023. [Photo by Natasha Brown]

FTCC Board of Trustees Chair William Hedgepeth conveyed the Board’s excitement with the completion of the swift water facility and expressed its thanks to the many partners who contributed to its completion.

“(This facility) will provide important training opportunities to first responders that aren’t easily obtained elsewhere,” Hedgepeth said. “The board has been excited about this development since it was first proposed two years ago, and we are delighted to see it come to fruition today.”

The swift water center is the latest addition to the 30-acre fire and rescue training complex on Tom Starling Road. The first phase of the state-of-the-art complex opened in September 2022. It includes a 24,000-square-foot training center, with classrooms, simulation labs, locker rooms, apparatus bays and offices; a technical rescue facility with a 4-story training tower; an area for trench collapse training and other confined space training; and a memorial plaza.

The complex was made possible through generous support by Cumberland County, which donated the land and $10 million to support the project. FTCC and the state were also among major funding sources.

A man in safety gear sits inside a car that is almost entirely submerged in an indoor tank. Spectators can be seen from behind in the foreground of the photo.

FTCC instructor Sean Johnson sits inside a submerged vehicle at the beginning of a rescue demonstration. [Photo by Natasha Brown]

County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Dr. Toni Stewart and Commissioner Jimmy Keefe joined Sorrells in delivering remarks during Monday’s ceremony.

Both recalled the events following Hurricane Matthew in 2016 when upwards of 150 water rescues were needed in the community.

“We learned that we need to be prepared for, not if, but when these types of events happen in the future,” Stewart said. “This facility will provide our first responders the first-class training they need year-round in a controlled environment we hope will offer their loved ones the added reassurance that they have the training needed to return home safely.”

Following the ribbon-cutting, attendees watched a series of rescue demonstrations performed by FTCC instruct ors and first responders, including a rescue from a submerged car and a rescue by rope.

FTCC was founded in 1961 as a job-training institution and became a community college in 1963 when the statewide Community College System was created. The College serves more than 28,000 students a year with occupational, technical, general education, college transfer and continuing education programs leading to more than 280 degrees, diplomas and certificates. For more information about FTCC, please visit For more information about the Dr. J. Larry Keen Regional Fire and Emergency Training Complex, please visit