Fire academy training continues for Cumberland Co. high schoolers despite COVID-19 quarantine

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- While many K-12 students are turning to laptops and webcams for learning, some high schoolers in Cumberland County are picking up their gear and working on their aim.

Two juniors, Cody Gorman, at South View High School, and Christa Gwinn, at Seventy-First High School, have been volunteering at the Stoney Point Fire Department (SPFD).

Both have had a passion for the firefighting career for a long time.

"I found out during a middle school fair in the eighth grade. It was the only thing I went to, the only table I went to," Gwinn said.

Gwinn is talking about the Cumberland County Fire Academy. It's a course offered at E.E. Smith High School, helping interested students become firefighter one and two certified.

The duo had been a part of the classes for several semesters; but like everything, that in-class option was turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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"I was in baseball season, so the baseball season kind of went away," Gorman said.

Despite having interactive online classes from their home, the two students are still able to practice what they learned from fire academy at SPFD.

Patricia Strahan is the instructor of the course. She says she teaches around 40 high schoolers, who are all taking initiative and joining local fire departments.

"The kids are stepping up and coming out to their local fire departments on their own. They're volunteering at and working there with them," Strahan said.

Strahan still holds online classes with her students; but because they're not in person, they're no longer able to advance in the curriculum, so it's all about reviewing what they covered and staying sharp.

In addition to the hands-on experience, Strahan says the willingness from these fire departments to bring in these students is also providing them with life-lessons and even potential jobs.

Gorman said that firefighting runs in his family, adding his brother currently works at SPFD. He just recently turned 18 and is now able to fight fires.

A milestone Gwinn is looking forward to earning, as they both work to be firefighter one and two certified.

"It's really nice to get out of the house, it's nice. It really helps me," Gwinn said.

All of the students in the fire academy will have to wait until schools open back up to earn their certifications.
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