14 blaze through firefighter school

July 26, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN - Fourteen firefighters became part of the Hagerstown Fire Department on Friday during a graduation ceremony at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center.

The group is the largest class that the department has hired at one time, said Mike Weller, the City of Hagerstown's fire prevention officer.

With the hires, the city fire department now has 85 personnel, Weller said.

"They have some bumps and bruises, but they got here with all their limbs," Training Capt. Mark Cleck said.

The recruits finished an eight-week training class only hours before Friday night's ceremony. They were picked from more than 200 applicants.

All of the new hires had worked in volunteer fire departments in Maryland or Pennsylvania.

"It's good to be done, but now the real work begins," said Timothy Cooper, one of the graduates.

The hirings complete an expansion of the fire department that the Hagerstown City Council agreed in 2006 to fund.


The expansion allowed for the hiring of 18 new firefighters and a training captain.

Nine firefighters and the training captain were hired in 2007.

In total, the added personnel cost the city about $1.1 million in wages and benefits, though a federal grant that has been applied for would pay for much of that expense, City Finance Director Al Martin said.

With the 14 firefighters added this year, the city's fire department will reach what many officials on Friday called a critical benchmark.

Fire engines now can respond to calls with at least two firefighters on the truck.

"It improves the overall safety of the department, but more importantly, it allows us to provide a much higher level of service," Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker said.

Hawbaker and others wished the new hires well during Friday's ceremony, but stressed the importance of their new role in the department and in the city.

"We have fun, we fight, but in the end, we really do care about each other because our lives depend on it," Hawbaker said.

The firefighters

The following firefighters became members of the Hagerstown Fire Department on Friday.

· Donnie Bingaman

· Allen Carpenter

· Timothy Cooper

· G. Dale Fishack

· Brandon Grinder

· Brian Henry

· Jay Johns

· Chris Lundberg

· Mark Sanders

· Zachary Schmidt

· Brian Snyder

· Dan Wagaman

· Shawn Wieczoreck

· Scott Wolff

Henry won the Outstanding Recruit Award and Schmidt was named class valedictorian.

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