The South Carolina Fire Academy graduated 17 recruits Friday, Sept. 23, from its eight-week firefighter candidate school in Columbia. Front row, left to right: Shane McGovern, Bay Springs Voluntary Fire Department; Jeremy Clemmer, Ridgeland Fire Department; Carlos Aponte, Lake City Fire Department; Casey Peters, City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire Department; and Windsor Anderton, Sullivan’s Island Fire Department. Middle row, left to right: Wyatt Pope, Lady’s Island-St. Helena Fire District; Nicholas Warchal, Bluffton Township Fire District; Cameron Burnett, Bluffton Township Fire District; Christian Williams, Darlington County Fire District; Isaac Hernandez, Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue; and Thomas Cotton, Hardeeville Fire Department. Back row, left to right: Cody Parker, Ridgeland Fire Department; Jake Toller, Bluffton Township Fire District; Matthew Richardson, Jasper County Fire & Rescue; Jason Kleiner, City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire Department; Skyler Korinek, Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue; and Nicolas Fernandez, Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue.

Beaufort/Port Royal’s Kleiner highlight of State Fire Academy’s September class

From staff reports

The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation’s South Carolina Fire Academy graduated 17 recruits, Friday, Sept. 23, from its eight-week firefighter candidate school in Columbia. Among the firefighters who underwent a 320-hour training program of classroom and hands-on firefighting skills development, Beaufort/Port Royal Fire Department recruit Jason Kleiner stood out.

Kleiner won two of the three awards recruits can claim at the conclusion of their class.

Kleiner won the Order of the Maltese, an award chosen by the class recruits. The Maltese Cross is a firefighter’s badge of honor, signifying that he or she works in courage – a ladder rung away from death. The Eight Obligations of The Maltese Cross are Live in Truth, Repent of Sins, Love Justice, Be Sincere and Whole-Hearted, Have Faith, Give Proof of Humility, Be Merciful, and Endure Persecution.

He also won the Chief Robert Frick Award, awarded to the recruit with the highest grade point average.

Hardeeville Fire Department’s Thomas Cotton won the Pride of the Battalion, chosen by the staff who worked with the recruits and given to the recruit who has demonstrated “Leadership, Integrity, Determination, and Good Value.”

The keynote speaker was Assistant Chief Will Vaigneur of the Lady’s Island-St. Helena Fire District. Other area recruits among the class included City of Beaufort/Town of Port Royal Fire Department’s Casey Peters and Lady’s Island-St. Helena Fire District’s Wyatt Pope.

“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, rescue training, and 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 and the State Fire Marshal’s Office make up the Division of Fire and Life Safety, which is a division of the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

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