Based at TCC Northwest, the Fire Academy welcomed its first class in October 1989, and this week, its 100th class will graduate.
“I am proud that the TCC Basic Fire Academy is reaching a pivotal milestone in graduating the 100th Day Class. It is a testament to how the instructors and staff of this program are delivering academic excellence and making economic impact by demonstrating the mission of Tarrant County College to provide affordable and open access to quality teaching and learning,” TCC Northwest President Zarina Blankenbaker said. “I appreciate the trust our community continues to place in us. We want to serve the community by elevating lives one graduation at a time.”
Although the graduation was April 21, the actual celebration happened the next day. All Fire Academy classes were honored.
Scott Funderburg, now a battalion chief-operations with the Flower Mound Fire Department, was a member of the first graduating class from the academy.
“It was an honor to be associated with the first class from the academy,” he said. “There were a few bumps in the road as the academy was still getting sorted out, but, on the other hand, we knew that we were getting the ball rolling for years to come.”
Funderburg, who currently has seven fire stations under his watch, has been with the city of Flower Mound for 30 years.
He had high praise for the quality of graduates from the TCC Fire Academy. He said he has hired several graduates.
“They are some of the best prepared for starting out in their career,” he added.
Bill Pearson, fire academy coordinator, was proud of the 2,432 people who have graduated from the TCC Fire Academy.
“One of the most rewarding parts of this job is when I run into a former student,” Pearson said. “It’s amazing to see someone who started here on day one with no experience, who struggled through 14 weeks of exhaustive training, working tirelessly to pass their state test and earn their certification, graduate and find a job. They then continue over the years to train and study and work to advance in their career and become a leader.”
Class 100 elected Wade Carroll to be the class captain, which he says was a great honor.
“Then to be taught by instructors with so much experience in DFW truly made me believe I received one of the best educations possible,” Carroll said.
Why did Carroll enroll in the academy? “I decided to join the fire service because I wanted to do something that would give me a chance to live up to my potential while also serving people,” he said.
The importance of what firefighters do is not lost on 100th class graduate, Maxwell Hayter, who says firefighting offered him what his other jobs did not — purpose.
“Every day, people from all classes of society, who I have never met before, will put their trust and confidence in me to solve what may be a minor inconvenience to them or the worst day of their life,” he said. “Working to fill that responsibility is a purpose that brings humility and joy to my life.”
Hayter also appreciates the brother-sisterhood of the firefighting profession.
“I can say from my short time as a recruit that it is a gift to be surrounded by so many amazing individuals, the bonds between firefighters are tangible and unwavering,” he said. “Ultimately, my decision to become a firefighter was to join a purpose-filled team of incredible men and women spanning both borders and centuries.”