By MICAH HENRY
A large crowd turned out in memory of the late firefighter Phil Hartis to dediate the flagpole at the Alxander Central Fire Academy in his honor on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023.
Chief Justin Deal, instructor for the Academy, along with Crystal Hoke, Alexander County Schools Director of Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Secondary Curriculum, welcomed several dozen people to the event.
Hartis’s family includes his wife, Sallie, who is a retired educator, and their two children, Kristen Jolly and Josh Hartis, both of whom serve as teachers at ACHS. Additionally, grandson Garrett Jolly, is a Fire Academy student.
“It is indeed with pride that we gather here at the ACHS Fire Academy for a momentous occasion. Today, we honor determination and devotion embodied by our courageous firefighters. This flagstaff serves as a symbol of our steadfast pledge to safeguard,” said Hoke. She noted that the Board of Education and the Alexander County Commissioners had the combined vision to open a fire program for high school students. Hoke also recognized former CTE Director, Susan Gantt, Associate Superintendent Dr. Betsy Curry, ACHS Principal Jacob Lail, and local firefighters, Rescue Squad, and EMS members.
Garrett Jolly explained that the Academy allows students hands-on experience in firefighting skills, including ladder operations, advancement of hose lines, physical fitness, radio communications, hazardous materials operations, vehicle extrication, CPR, emergency medical care, engine operations, and more.
“As students, we can earn NC firefighter certification by passing NCOSFM tests throughout the course. Then, when we turn 18, we do a live burn and will receive our certification,” Jolly stated. “In 2019, the old Sugar Loaf Fire Department was allocated to Alexander Central High School. The first class of students started at the Academy in 2021, and last year, there were 25 students who took Fire Tech class. This year, there are 38 signed up for classes here at the Academy.”
Chief Deal said, “Today we gather together to dedicate this flagpole to the memory of Phil Hartis. In memory of his selfless service and dedication, we establish this memorial to forever commemorate Phil’s sacrifice and the lasting impact he has had on our lives.”
Chief Deal recalled working as a local firefighter under the command of Hartis, noting that Hartis saved his life and the life of several other firefighters in 1993 by ordering them out of a burning building which collapsed less than five minutes later.
“Because of his experience, his knowledge, his wisdom, and being able to understand that we’re here today. His legacy will live on,” Chief Deal stated.
He noted that 75 percent of students in the Academy have gone on to volunteer at fire departments in Alexander County.
Future plans include placing large shipping containers at the facility to conduct Fire Tech I, II, and III training operations.