January 5, 2022

Firefighter saves 3 from Atlanta fire, Smoke Diver trained at Mississippi State Fire Academy

Therese Apel

Atlanta firefighters Spencer Cramer (left) and Ben Holton (right) upon completion of the elite Mississippi Smoke Diver course.

A house fire in Atlanta could have been a whole lot worse if it wasn’t for firefighter Ben Holton and his crew.

While Atlanta is a far cry from Pearl, Mississippi, there were some connecting fibers that night. Holton recently passed the elite Smoke Diver class at the Mississippi State Fire Academy.

Mississippi Smoke Diver Class #119

11 Alive news reports that just before 8 p.m. Monday, Atlanta Fire Rescue said crews were called to a house fire on Bernice Street SW after a neighbor told dispatch there was a fire next door and there could be people inside.

Atlanta Fire Rescue told 11 Alive that three people were rescued from that fire, and all were alert, conscious and breathing at the time of rescue.

According to an MSFA Smoke Diver page, Holton was the one who saved them.

“For one person to save that many people at once is pretty unusual,” said MSFA Executive Director Terry Wages. “Most people go through their whole career without a save.”

Smoke Diver training, in the fire service world and beyond, is considered incredibly hard. Wages says it doesn’t necessarily make you better than other firefighters, but it lets you know what you are capable of. There has never been a Smoke Diver killed in the line of duty, Wages added.

“It’s a course that gives you a better understanding of your own limitations and how to use those to better yourself in a stressful situation,” he said. “It pushes you to where you don’t feel like you can do anymore and you find out you can do more, and you push yourself further and further.”

Wages remembers Holton and his classmate Spencer Cramer, also of Atlanta FD. He said while many come to the class somewhat trepidatious about the high level of pressure, Wages said the Atlanta guys walked into the November course confident, ready to knock it out. Both were also certified Smoke Divers in Georgia.

(Story continues after video of Smoke Diver Class 119 training)

“Physically, these guys were horses,” he said. “Of course they found their limits like everyone does, but they fought through and finished the course. They were really impressive.”

Wages said the Atlanta firefighters he’s seen in the Smoke Diver class “are some of the best I’ve ever seen go through the program.”

It isn’t unusual to have firefighters from other states join the Smoke Diver course at MSFA, which Wages said makes him proud of his academy.

“It just adds to the fact that this course is one of the best in the nation honing your firefighter training,” he said. “We’re super proud when out-of-state firefighters come in for training.”

Wages said there are currently roughly 1158 Smoke Divers in the country.

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