ROCKINGHAM — Every year, the Office of State Fire Marshal High School Firefighter Challenge is held at the Buncombe County Training Center in Asheville for students across the state to further their fire and rescue training.
In June, rising senior Zac Sharpe from Richmond Senior High School completed his training and graduated from the program along with approximately 24 other students.
“This was the first time Richmond Senior High School was represented,” said Chief Victor McCaskill, Fire and Emergency Medical Technician teacher at Richmond Senior High School. “I like this program because it teaches students about teamwork, leadership and other skills, and the training grounds are realistic to what they would do in the real world.”
During the week-long training, students were split into groups, or companies, and earned points throughout the week based on how well they completed their drills including live burns, search and rescue, repelling, forceful entry and many others.
At the end of the week, the points were totaled and the company with the highest amount of points and the most improved company received fire helmets.
Sharpe said his time at the facility taught him a lot.
“It’s like drinking knowledge from a fire hose,” he said. “I like putting myself in new situations and I met a lot of new people, and that’s a big part of fire service. Talking and meeting new people.”
When McCaskill visited the center, he was able to see the students go through live burn scenarios, car extractions, and compete in a water barrel hose competition. McCaskill said he took away some ideas he’d like to bring back to the classroom.
“The students encouraged each other, despite not knowing each other and being in different companies,” he said. “They encouraged each other to do the best they could.
“I would like to do more teamwork and dividing the class into companies where they work together and I can sit back and grade them on their leadership skills and how they handle the class,” he added.
At the end of the program, Sharpe said he felt more accomplished as a firefighter and learned more skills that he plans to use during his time as a volunteer firefighter with the Aberdeen Fire Department.
McCaskill said he’s sure Sharpe will also use that training in the classroom.
“He’s one of a kind,” said McCaskill. “He’s focused on emergency service training and every subject in the classroom. He also helps other students and explains things they might not understand. And if he doesn’t know something, he’ll figure it out.
“Our job is to get students interested, get them EMT certified and if they get jobs, that’s great,” he added.
McCaskill hopes to send more students to the OSFM High School Firefighter Challenge at the Buncombe County Training Center in the future.