CASTLE HAYNE, NC (WWAY) -- Before North Carolina firefighters battle flames out in the field they learn in a controlled environment. This weekend hundreds of firefighters came together from across the state for the Pender County Firefighter's Association Fire College.
"This weekend is about the students and giving them the information that our mentors gave us," said instructor Danny Grafius, who also is in the Wilmington Fire Dept.
Over a three day period firefighters participated in over 40 different courses and training exercises at the North Campus of Cape Fear Community College.
"We can offer some things they can't get in areas where they're at," said Alex Stanland, CFCC Safety Training Coordinator. "We've got about a $12,000,000 to $13,000,000 facility here and this is what it's all about. We want them to come down and train, learn, and get the skills that they need to."
The school had over 800 participants for this weekend of classes. Many firefighters say what makes it different are the hands on challenges.
"Yesterday we did a search and rescue and today we are working on our hose lines, attack lines and ladders," said Natosha Perry, a Sloop Point volunteer firefighter.
"Hands on is where it's at," said Raymond Boyles, a volunteer firefighter from Rocky Point. "You might be able to read it through the books, look at it, but you're not going to understand what to do unless you actually put your hand on it."
Firefighters say another rewarding part of the fire college is the communication they have with other departments. They say the whole process is one big learning experience.
"I get information that they do from their departments on how they respond to calls, how they operate on the fire scene, and I just put it all together," said Boyles.
Throughout the year Cape Fear Community College offers fire and rescue training classes to provide North Carolina firefighter certifications.