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12/10/2013 - Bridgeport firefighters graduate from fire academy

Eleven new firefighters joined the city department Dec. 6 after completing 14 weeks of training at the Connecticut Fire Academy.

A total of 54 firefighters from 19 career and volunteer departments completed the training and graduated Friday at a ceremony in the Parsons Government Center in Milford.

“This is a job of unusual dangers with extraordinary rewards,” Bridgeport Fire Chief Brian Rooney said. “Our profession is like none other. It calls for life and death decisions, running into burning buildings looking for those who were left behind. Know this: You now are a part of a new family like none other. You will live together, eat together, laugh together and support each other during the difficult times most people can’t fathom. It is not a job but a calling and the most rewarding one I can imagine.”

The newest Bridgeport firefighters are Daniel R. Brelsford, Stephen M. Buda, Sean G. Canfield, Thomas J. Coolidge, Alex R. Gomez, Ryan Kane, James D. Kozlowski, Patrick E. Krompinger, Michal M. Lupa, Myles S. Rich and Derek M. Villani.

“This is a both a rewarding and challenging profession,” Mayor Bill Finch said. “There will be amazing highs and devastating lows. These men and women will attend each other’s weddings, baptisms, family picnics. Lean on each other. First and foremost, they are our first line of defense. The people of Bridgeport sleep at night knowing that there are brave men and women who will risk their lives to save them when something goes terribly wrong.”

In every Connecticut Fire Academy class, one recruit is selected to receive the Michael C. Reilly Memorial Hard Charger Award. Reilly graduated from the state fire academy in 2003 as a member of the Stratford Fire Department.

A U.S. Marine, Reilly subsequently was deployed to Iraq after graduation and, upon returning, fulfilled a lifelong dream and joined the New York Fire Department in 2006. On April 27 of that year, Reilly and another firefighter died in a three-alarm fire in the Bronx.

This year’s award went to Norwalk recruit Anthony Popacoda.

The recruits began their intensive daily training at the Connecticut Fire Academy in August, focusing on developing the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for entry-level firefighters. The core program components are to establish a strong desire and will for self-discipline, teamwork, company morale, orderliness and precision.

Additional course components include training in hazardous materials mitigation, weapons of mass destruction preparedness, confined space rescue, CPR defibrillator and technical rescue.

The graduation recruits will be nationally certified to the level of Firefighter I and Firefighter II in addition to being awarded numerous certificates for specialized training.

The new Bridgeport firefighters range in age from 22 to 48. Seven of the 11 are Bridgeport residents.