Fourteen Central Emergency Service volunteers received certificates for graduating from Firefighter One Academy last week and lieutenant bars were pinned on five volunteers promoted to the new rank.
CES Chief Jeff Tucker congratulated the volunteers and thanked the recruits for the many hours they devoted to their training. He also thanked several friends and family members gathered Tuesday for the graduation ceremony in the firehouse in Soldotna for the support they showed the recruits.
"It took a lot of hours and dedication to get here," Tucker said. "I know the volunteers are not here to make a living, they're here to serve the community."
On-call volunteer firefighters and medics are paid a stipend only while responding to calls or during required training.
Those promoted to lieutenant were Mike Hancock, David Bunts, Craig Macdonald, Mike Simpson and Albert Burns. All but Burns will be assigned to CES fire stations throughout the fire service area. Burns is the volunteer training lieutenant.
Volunteers who completed Firefighter 1 training include Rebekah Challans, Greg Coon, Marcus Cravens, Jordan Dehlbom, Joel Dunn and Robert Glick.
Also graduating were Kevin Hayes, Phillip Hayward, David Kindred, Jared Paulino, Josh Thompson, Scott Wilkinson, Kimberly Martin and Nicole Macdonald.
Training Chief Ed French said the Firefighter 1 training program began in April and continued through the entire summer.
"It started with an interview session to determine if this really was what the recruits wanted to do. Then there was emergency trauma training for those who hadn't had it yet and then Firefighter 1," French said.
"The sacrificing has just begun. There are gonna be many nights when you're tired after a long day of work, you come home, and the alarm goes off," he said.
Then becoming somewhat choked with emotion, he said, "But the reward comes from that kid in school who looks up to you; the person whose airway you open and save their life; the first house you save."
"Eighty percent of the firefighters in the United States are volunteers or part-pay," said Volunteer Capt. Keith Hamilton.
"We're a combination department and you volunteers are critical," he said.
CES consists of some full-time paid firefighters and some paid on-call volunteers.
"Our hope is to become the premier combination department in Alaska," Hamilton said.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley, who attended the ceremony, informed the graduates that the borough allows a $10,000 property assessment tax exemption for those who serve as volunteers.
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