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SMCC celebrates 50 years of fire training

Southern Maine Community College has been training firefighters since 1969. It boasts the largest live-in program in the country, placing students within local fire department.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — It takes a special kind of person to go into a burning building to save lives and fight fires. Being a firefighter takes more than guts; it takes a lot of training.

Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) has been training firefighters for half a century.

Around 100 students are taking part in the fire science program this year. Kasey Hartmann is one of them and you could say that she was born to fight fires. Her father is one, and so was her grandfather in Walpole, New Hampshire. 

"At the dinner table this was something that we would always talk about and me and my grandfather would bond over it all the time," Hartmann said.

Hartmann is part of SMCC's live-in program, the largest in the country with 87 students living and working in Maine fire departments. Hartmann has been on call morning and night at the Scarborough Black Point Fire Station — understanding the risk of the job, according to fire science department chair Steve Willis. 

"Part of the education that we provide is to make sure that all of our students are able to manage that risk, asses that risk appropriately and make decisions based on how they might respond to it.," Willis said. 

Students at SMCC also understand that they aren't just working with flames, but also with the public.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) teacher Eric Wellman reenacts common scenarios an EMT or paramedic might deal with in the field. Students are prepared to both treat and talk with a person needing help.

"When they walk into people's houses, they are more than just, 'oh, you're bleeding.' No, you're bleeding, but you also have a wife, a child, a husband, or someone else in your life. We want to make sure that you're looked at as a whole person," Wellman said.

To celebrate 50 years of fire training, SMCC will be having a Light On The Point Celebration on campus May 16 from 5:30-7 p.m.

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