AUBURN — Auburn Fire Chief Mark Fritz said the department’s fire academy program was born out of necessity.
At the start of the Auburn Fire Department’s recruit firefighter training program graduation Friday morning, Fritz told those gathered at the event at the fire station that different central agencies from New York had recruited the personnel they needed.
Sixteen recruits were expected to graduate, including seven for AFD and others who will work in Oswego, Cortland and Manlius departments.
Fritz said the Auburn Fire Department had opened fire academies in the past, “so once it became clear that the only option we had was to run our own fire academy,” the Auburn’s own program was designed, with about three weeks to set it up. Auburn assistant fire chiefs William DiFabio and Michael Grady were instructors.
Participants came to the station five days a week for nine weeks, with each day starting at 6 a.m., Fritz added.
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“When they get out of here, with their badges on their uniforms, they will have gone from recruits to firefighters,” he said, then addressing the recruits. “My men, I’ve watched you through this process. I’ve seen you grow, I’ve seen you mature, I’ve seen you form a team.”
Fritz said he was proud of the rookies. DiFabio spoke about the difficult tasks the rookies had to face as part of their training and success.
“I truly believe that before me are the future leaders of the fire departments of Auburn, Oswego, Cortland and Manlius,” DiFabio said. “Remember, men, being a leader doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with what’s going on at your job.”
Other speakers included Oswego graduate Jeff Blanchard and Grady, who served as the class speaker. Blanchard talked about lessons he’s learned that aren’t in the textbooks, including to keep trying if you don’t succeed at first, to actively hydrate, and that “the fire department is a family.”
Officials from each department placed firefighter badges on their new hires, with Fritz doing the honors for the Auburn staff.
After the ceremony, Fritz said last fall, AFD received a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay the salaries and benefits of five firefighters for three years, but those firefighters would have been hired in the six months.
Earlier this year, it became clear the Auburn department couldn’t recruit its recruits from fire academies because spots weren’t open, Fritz said, prompting Auburn to launch its own program. In addition to these five recruits, two more were recruited due to a few retirements, so all seven recruits were hired before the start of the academy.
Several AFD members are state-certified fire instructors and other departments had recruits, so they were offered spots in the Auburn program, Fritz said. Auburn had previously held fire academies as needed, Fritz said when “I arrived 27 years ago I was in an AFD academy.” He also said that if Auburn and other departments have those needs again, they would consider reviving the academy program. Fritz said the academy is “just the beginning” for every recruit, as each will return to their department and receive additional training for the rest of their career.
For instance. Auburn’s seven recruits will begin four-week emergency medical technician training beginning Monday, Fritz said. Afterwards, they will be assigned to their businesses and will receive more training. Fritz congratulated the recruits and all those who contributed to the realization of the academy
“I’m very proud (of the recruits), I’m very proud of my staff for being able to create this academy in such a short time, and very happy with the level of education they were able to provide,” he said. declared. said. “The fact that all 16 candidates passed is a testament to the program.”
During the ceremony, Auburn rookie Michael Boglione was recognized for posting the fastest time on the Candidate Physical Fitness Test, an assessment for firefighters. Boglione, a native of Auburn, said he was happy to have the fastest time because he was the oldest rookie.
Adding that his previous job was working and installing garage doors, Boglione said people he knows in the fire service suggested he take the civil service test and explained the career. He congratulated his fellow recruits.
“It’s a relief to be done, but exciting to start our new careers,” he said.
Gallery: Auburn Fire Department Recruit Firefighter Training Program Diploma
Managing Editor Kelly Rocheleau can be reached at (315) 282-2243 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @KellyRocheleau.