Clarendon Hall has made history in the county and across the nation by graduating its first class of fire fighters.
Twelve Clarendon Hall students and their athletic director joined the ranks of the Clarendon County Fire Department and Providence Fire Department in Orangeburg County in a graduation ceremony held on June 19 at Weldon Auditorium.
Participants completed more than 200 hours of work that included in-classroom work, hands-on training and an online component.
“It’s an accomplishment for the school and the community to have the eyes of the nation on us,” said Clarendon County Fire Department Deputy Chief Jonathan Jones.
Jones, who served as instructor for the course at Clarendon Hall, said that this was one of the first firefighting courses in the nation to be included in a high school setting utilizing a blended teaching format of online and traditional instructor-led training.
“It’s been done at career centers but not in many high schools,” he said. “This shows that this can be done, and that the program can serve as examples for other schools around the country who want to do similar firefighting programs.”
Trainees learned how to use firefighting equipment, such as ladders, hoses, chain saws, fire extinguishers and axes. In the classroom, students studied search and rescue procedures, local building codes and fire science. In field exercises, trainees were put through obstacle courses to test their agility. They were also trained on how to react to challenging situations, such as fires in cars or crawl spaces. They also received CPR/First Aid training.
“Of all the things that you’ve been taught in this course, there’s one underlying theme and that’s accountability,” Jones said to the newly certified firefighters at their graduation ceremony.
Clarendon County Fire Department Chief Frances Richbourg said to the new recruits that even though they have finished the program, their training will continue throughout their careers as either volunteer or career firefighters.
Shane Ray, South Carolina State Fire Academy Superintendent and newly appointed State Fire Marshall, thanked the participants on behalf of Governor Nikki Haley.
“We are pleased for your dedication and your efforts to serve your community,” he said. “You have been given an opportunity for a better future. Your service here and beyond will give others a better opportunity.”
Ray also extended a special thanks to Richbourg, Jones and Clarendon Hall Headmaster Angie Bruner.
“I want to say thank you to Clarendon Hall and everyone that tore down the barriers that said that this was not possible,” Ray said.
The new firefighters will become volunteers at the following stations: Brandon Baxley and Christen Browder will be assigned to Station 14 in the Panola area, Casey Connors will be assigned to Station 4 in Wyboo, Trey Fleming and David Lookabill will be assigned to Station 5 in Paxville. Kaitlyn Sawyer, Gary Elenbark and Dalton Hughes will be assigned to Station 12 in North Santee. Austin Seitz will be assigned to Station 1 in Manning. Emily Venning will be assigned to Station 16 in Ram Bay. Wes Keller will be assigned to Station 3 in Summerton. Kaela Phillips will be assigned to Providence Fire Department in Orangeburg County.