Bradley Bellamy and Matt Paperlla are helping pioneer the way future firefighters are trained in Horry County.
The teens are among four Horry County students in a pilot program to train them to be firefighters and allow them to take certification tests on their 18th birthday, officials said Thursday during the announcement of the 14th career and technology major based at the Academy for Technology and Academics.
"It's going to be a great program," said Paperlla, who plans to volunteer after he is certified and then make a career as a firefighter. "It's a smarter way to go."
The two-year program for high school juniors and seniors was established with partnerships between Horry County Schools, Horry County Fire Rescue, the Boy Scouts of America and the S.C. Fire Academy. The academy also has partnered with Georgetown County schools, where the introductory course is offered at Andrews High School.
The program has been a topic of conversation among educators and fire instructors for about 10 years, said David Stoudenmire, principal at the academy off U.S. 701 North.
"Each of these students have done a tremendous job as they come on board to be the future of public safety," Stoudenmire said. "This is the best of government working together."
The program allows students who successfully complete the training and are 18 or older to test for certification through the National Fire Protection Association and the S.C. Fire Academy.
Once certified, the students will be firefighters and do not have to repeat any training to volunteer or work with Horry County Fire Rescue, Deputy Fire Chief Kenneth Beans said.
"We are essentially running a fire academy through Horry County Schools," Beans said.
Members of Horry County Fire Rescue, who are teaching the students, are certified instructors with the S.C. Fire Academy, said Ed Roper, superintendent of the academy.
"It won't be easy, but it will certainly be rewarding," Roper said to the students.
More than 24,000 firefighters were trained last year in the state by the academy, Roper said. The certification will mean students can go anywhere in the country and get a job as a firefighter.
"There is certainly a need for you in our state, so we hope you stay here," Roper said.
Contact TONYA ROOT at 444-1723.