by Vicki Brown
A Colleton County woman was among a class of 28 men and women from across South Carolina who graduated recently from the Palmetto State’s Fire Academy.
Elissa Gerard completed the 8-week firefighting school in Columbia on Friday, Feb. 26.
The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation’s South Carolina Fire Academy
Gerard was already a local paramedic when she went into the fire academy. She was hired in November 2020 with Colleton County Fire-Rescue, and she is currently assigned to Station No. 1 on Mabel T. Willis Blvd in Walterboro.
“Elissa Gerard has been training at the state fire academy for two months,” said Colleton County Fire-Rescue Chief Barry McRoy. “We are proud of her accomplishments and glad to have her back serving our community.”
The firefighters who attended the state fire academy underwent a 320-hour training program. The program includes classroom hours and hands-on firefighting skills development.
“This challenging program requires commitment, passion, and dedication,” Fire Academy Superintendent Dennis Ray said. “These recruits have successfully worked together as a team, performed extensive hands-on training with live fires, and passed intensive practical skills evaluations and written tests to meet the National Fire Protection Association standards.”
The comprehensive training, offered quarterly at the Fire Academy, includes emergency responder first aid training, hazardous materials operations training, auto extrication, flammable liquids and gas firefighting and rescue training.
The graduates also learned National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Firefighter I and Firefighter II levels.
Additionally, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, changes were made to class structure and facilities to promote social distancing and recommended precautions.
“With the successful completion and graduation of these new firefighters who will now be dedicating their lives to serving their communities and the state, our South Carolina fire service is enhanced,” Ray said. “I am proud of their accomplishments, and I also commend the dedicated Fire Academy instructors who brought the recruits through these weeks of instruction leading to graduation.”
The Fire Academy provides emergency services training to the municipal fire service - both paid and volunteer - airport crash rescue departments, industrial fire brigades and emergency teams and service organizations including EMS, law enforcement and military from around the state and the world. The Fire Academy is accredited by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress and National Board on Fire Service Professional Qualifications (Pro Board) for multiple NFPA firefighter levels.