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PAWTUCKETâAs U.S. Sen. Jack Reed noted, thanks to a federal grant, the city has gained 21 newly-trained firefighters âto go where we won't go ... go to the dangerous places to protect us.â
Reed, who led the effort to procure the $4.2 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant, with the support of Congressmen Sheldon Whitehouse and David Cicilline, spoke at Friday's Fire Academy graduation ceremony at the Le Foyer Club. He was joined by Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, Mayor Donald Grebien, Director of Administration Antonio Pires, Fire Chief William Sisson, and several fire chiefs from surrounding communities.
In speaking of the importance of firefighters to the public, Reed referenced what he called an âunforgettable imageâ that had appeared in the New York Times the day after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The photo, he said, showed a firefighter walking up the stairs of the World Trade Center as workers were rushing down to safety. He told the graduates that they had chosen âone of the most important and noble professions.â
Mayor Donald Grebien said it was a âa tremendous dayâ for both the graduates, to mark their accomplishments, and the city in terms of improved public safety. He also called it âa day of renewalâ where the graduates would bring âa fresh perspectiveâ to the fire department, while simultaneously learning from the veterans.
Noting that the city had also secured a grant for more than $500,000 to purchase new breathing apparatus units, Grebien thanked Reed and the other members of the congressional delegation for helping Pawtucket obtaining the funding. Also singled out by the administration were Lt. Edward Shottek and retired Lt. Gil Woodside, who authored the grant applications.
In a press release, city officials said the $4.2 million SAFER grant will provide all salaries and benefits for the new positions for the next two years, while also significantly reducing current overtime expenditures. Vacancies due to ongoing retirements are expected to allow full absorption of the new recruits by the expiration the grant.
The 21 new firefighters will immediately enter front-line service, restoring the Fire Department's force size to 146 in the city of approximately 71,000 residents.
Fire Chief William Sisson called it âan unbelievable dayâ for the city to be putting on 21 firefighters at the present time. He noted that 163 applications had been received for 21 jobs, and said it was a difficult taskâ to choose 21 to attend the first full-time Fire Academy in the history of the department.
Sisson credited Capt. Robert Thurber, the instructor coordinator, and the team of instructors from the city fire department, who helped prepare the recruits. He advised the graduates to ânever stop training, never stop learning, and you'll go far in this department.â
Capt. William Conroy, vice president of I.A.F.F. Local 1261, welcomed the graduates on behalf of the union. He spoke of the inherent dangers of the job, noting that even the tag sewn inside his turnout coat warns the wearer that âFirefighting is an ultra-hazardous, unavoidably dangerous activity.â He also spoke of the importance of teamwork, and urged the 20 men and one woman firefighter to âbe a champion for yourselves and your brothers and sister, and always maintain the idea of selflessness throughout your lives and careers.â
Pires, who is also public safety director, conducted the swearing in, which was followed by the new firefighters receiving their badges from family members and loved ones. Pires noted that the day was âa legacy momentâ that they would appreciate with the passage of time.
There were other âlegaciesâ among the graduating class, as several of the new firefighters were the siblings or children of current members of the fire department. Among these was firefighter Tiffany Pacheco, the sister of firefighter Timothy Pacheco, who graduated first in the recruit class and was chosen as class president. Others included firefighter Alexander D. Marshall, the son of firefighter David Marshall; and firefighter Derek T. McGarry, the son of Lt. Thomas McGarry.
Also part of the graduating class were firefighter Sean J. Gannon, son of Municipal Court Judge John âJackâ Gannon, and firefighter Terrence J. O'Neill, son of former City Councilor Christopher O'Neill.
Additional members of the 2013 recruit class are: firefighter Seth W. Barber, firefighter Mark E. Bushy, firefighter Daniel P. Detour, firefighter Ryan C. Ferreira, firefighter Milton P. Giard III, firefighter Thomas J. Koch, firefighter Sean P. Lambert, firefighter David R. Lavergne, firefighter Noah F. LeBlanc, firefighter Brendan M. McCarthy, firefighter Michael J. McMahon, firefighter Kurt T. Mercer, firefighter William V. Murray, firefighter Christopher M. Parent, firefighter Michael R. Vance, and firefighter Paul R. Vollaro, Jr.
Follow Donna Kirwan on Twitter @KirwanDonna