Surfside Beach launching Citizens Fire Academy in September

About a year after launching a Citizen’s Police Academy, town officials said residents in Surfside Beach will have a similar opportunity with the fire department.

Fire Chief Dan Cimini said a Citizen’s Fire Academy will start with an inaugural class, limited to 12 people, in September and hopes to hold two sessions in the following years.

Anyone interested must be at least 18 years old and must live within the town limits. Applications should be available the first week of August.

Cimini said the academy was something Town Council members wanted the department to do following the success of the program in the police department.

Councilman Randle Stevens said he supports the launch of the academy and is excited for residents to have the opportunity to see the fire department in a different way.

“I think it’s a good thing,” he said. “Anytime you get the citizens involved in the town and what they do, it’s a great thing.”

Stevens participated in the Citizen’s Police Academy and said it changed his view of the police department and expects the citizen’s fire academy to have the same effect.

“I learned a lot by doing the police academy,” he said. “You really don’t know what the police do and understand what’s going on with them. By doing the police academy and the ride along, you learn all kinds of things they have to look out for at all times. It’ll be the same thing about the fire academy.”

Participants will learn the basics of fire prevention and firefighting and training in an eight- to 10-week course.

Class members will have the chance to wear and use firefighting equipment as well as go through the confined space maze and other training exercises.

“The whole concept is to make them more aware of what the fire department does,” Cimini said. “I think there’s a misconception that firefighters just sit around and wait for something to happen. You see that in old movies showing firefighters playing pool and cards. We don’t have either of those things in our station.”

Cimini said public education is important to the department and the academy is another tool that will be used to teach residents.

The Surfside Beach Fire Department on Wednesday was awarded the Richard S. Campbell award for excellence in public fire safety education for a combination career and volunteer department with a population less than 15,000 at the S.C. State Firefighters’ Association’s 109th Annual S.C. Fire-Rescue Conference, which was held in Myrtle Beach last week.