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Volunteer firefighter class graduates

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A new crop of volunteer firefighters received certificates during a Thursday night ceremony at the White River School District auditorium in Buckley. They join 15,000 volunteer firefighters in the state who dedicate their time and energy.

The master of ceremonies was Buckley Fire Chief Alan Predmore who welcomed the Class of 2006 to the firefighter family.

“It takes a huge amount of dedication and commitment to become a firefighter,” Predmore said.

Acting Washington State Fire Marshal Mike Matlick, the guest speaker for the evening, also commended the graduates' dedication, telling them that this is just the beginning of their training as firefighters.

The recruits were called to the front of the stage to receive their certificates from the chiefs in attendance. A number of recruits, such as Enumclaw volunteer firefighter Joe Brassard, are continuing a family tradition with the fire service. Brassard's father, a King County District 28 captain, pinned the shiny badge to his son's uniform. His brother is also a firefighter and his grandfather, who flew in from Phoenix for the ceremony, was a volunteer.

Several recruits received special recognition at the ceremony. Academic awards went to Justin Shea, Jonathan Riggsby and Maryn Voss with top honors awarded to Christopher Schenk. Jeri Freeburg received the Most Improved Award.

Leadership awards were given to Voss, Rawleigh Irvin and Leah Tobin, who was also the class president. The Class Commanders Award was presented to Adam Trepus. The Chiefs Company included Kyle Rohner, Mitchell Mears, Ryan Shervanick, Joshua Hettick and John Pickens.

This year's recruits met for the first time Dec. 22. The 45 who gathered passed a rigorous selection process to gain a seat in the class. Their ages ranged from 18 to 45 years old. Many attended drills, conducted twice a week and every other Saturday, while working a full-time job. For nine of the recruits, the demanding schedule and arduous training was too great and they dropped out of the program.

Predmore, who serves as one of the lead instructors at the academy, said 35 years ago, volunteer firefighter training consisted of just one weekend. As recently as nine years ago, recruits graduated after participating in a 90-hour program. This year, the recruits underwent 228 hours of training.

Just getting into the class was an effort. According to East Pierce Fire and Rescue Volunteer Chief Jake Doty, recruits had to pass a physical exam, background check and undergo a demanding physical agility test to be accepted into the program.

The newest volunteer firefighters for the Buckley Fire Department are Kevin Boyles, Harold Eveland, Mears and Riggsby. Volunteers serving King County Fire District No. 28 are Brassard, Freeburg, Josh Frost, Hettick, Derek Jones, Edmond Laush, Theron Reutter, Rohner, Jared Skelley, Trepus and Nona Zilbauer. East Pierce Fire and Rescue volunteers include Andrew Angulo, Enzo Bacco, Samuel Betz, Jonathan Holt, Scot Lynch, Brian Sargent, Schenk, Shea, Shervanick, Sean Slattery and James Walker.

“We are strong believers that it doesn't really matter whether they are a volunteer firefighter or a career firefighter,” Predmore said. “The level of professionalism and the level of knowledge and competence at their skills shouldn't be different.”

The volunteers represented the fire departments of Buckley, King County Fire District No. 28, serving the city of Enumclaw, Carbonado, East Pierce Fire and Rescue, Riverside Fire and Rescue, Pierce County Fire District No. 8 in Edgewood and Pierce County Fire District No. 26 in Greenwater.

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