Photos by Eric Goodman
Left: Class #124 firefighters & instructors celebrate Graduation Day
Right: Class leader Carlos Alvarez receives badge from Fire Chief Dave Downey
Surrounded by family, friends, elected officials, and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue (MDFR) staff; MDFR Firefighter Recruit Class #124 celebrated their long awaited graduation! The ceremony took place on January 17, 2014 at MDFR’s Training Facility located at 9300 NW 41 Street in Doral, Florida.
“I am very pleased to be here with you and I congratulate Chief Downey and his staff for obtaining the SAFER grant that helped fund your class,” said Commissioner Sally Heyman. SAFER stands for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue received $11,431,650 on November 29, 2013. This federal grant prevented the layoff of 59 firefighters, the closure of two fire engine companies, an aerial platform company, and the reduction of staffing on a number of other units for the next two years.
Recruit Class #124 is the first group of new firefighters hired since 2009. “I promised you that if you hang in there despite all the rhetoric, that you would remain a member of the MDFR family,” stated MDFR’s Fire Chief Downey.
The group of 40 men and women bring extensive experience to MDFR. More than half of the new recruits are military veterans and previously served with other career fire departments like class leader, Carlos Alvear, a Marine veteran. “Just a few short months ago the fate of this class was uncertain. We didn’t know if we were going to be unemployed or trying to get our old jobs back and hope for redemption. A few of us had children on the way and still do. We left everything for the opportunity to work in the best fire department in the nation,” said Alvear.
“You can be proud of MDFR and our Local 1403 as we have pioneered Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Air Rescue, HazMat, Technical Rescue Team (TRT), Urban Search and Rescue (USAR), and the Venom Program that I created,” affirmed Local 1403 Union President Al Cruz. “You have chosen a noble career where you will spend the next quarter century or longer helping your neighbor and our visitors when they have an emergency. Can you think of any other job where you go home knowing that you saved someone’s life?”
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue employs almost 2000 career firefighters and is the largest fire rescue department in the Southeast.
Assistant Fire Chief, Fernando Fernandez, who is retiring next month after 37 years working in the fire service and 30 years with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue asked the newly graduated firefighters to never do anything to discredit MDFR’s patch and to humbly wear it with pride remembering daily that public servants have greater responsibilities. “Your job is to face the perils, to protect the lives and property of the people you serve,” stressed Chief Fernandez.
The recruits underwent an intense 10-week training under the command of Chief Jeff Strickland. On graduation day, Class 124 firefighters displayed their abilities in a practical skills demonstration wearing their brand new bunker gear.
For more information, please contact MDFR’s Public Affairs Bureau at 786-331-5200.