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Nearly 75 family members and friends celebrated the graduation of the Danville Fire Department’s seven newest professional firefighters on Friday. Each firefighter received their individual badge, which was then pinned to their uniform.
The new firefighters are Chance Bartee, Scott Birney, Adam Brown, Ryan Lankford, Cody Phelps, William Stephens and Lawrence Woodson III. They will fill positions on battalions at fire stations across the city.
To graduate, each firefighter had to complete the department’s recruit school academy, which began Oct. 1 and concluded with Friday’s ceremony in Council Chambers at the Municipal Building. An academy provides training in areas such as live firefighting, hazardous materials, search and rescue, vehicle extrication, rapid intervention and first aid.
“We are going to make them part of our family,” said Battalion Chief Barry Neal, who is in charge of training and safety. “This (firefighting) in undoubtedly one of the strongest brotherhoods and bond of any career you will have in your life.”
“It takes a special person to preach, to teach and to be a police officer. But it takes an extremely extraordinary person to be a firefighter. This is not a job. This is a career. We are a service-oriented agency. We do many different things now from EMS (emergency management services) to hazmat (hazardous materials) to technical rescue. Occasionally, you fight fires.”
Dan Jones, retired fire chief of the Chapel Hill, N.C., Fire Department, talked about the responsibilities of a firefighter.
“You are a firefighter not only on the job but around the clock,” Jones said. “Once people know you are a firefighter, you are a firefighter all the time. Others will seek you out in times of crisis. It’s what we do. Firefighting and emergencies is a life you are taking on.”
Friday’s ceremony marked the completion of the department’s only academy this year. The department has 114 firefighters, 21 dispatchers and 10 administrative staff members.