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12/17/2012 - 21 New Firefighters Join Ranks of Bridgeport Fire Department

CT Fire Academy ceremonies held at Klein Auditorium;
66 recruits join 26 fire departments statewide


BRIDGEPORT, CT (December 17, 2012) – State and local dignitaries and crowd of about 500 family members packed the Klein Auditorium Monday to welcome the newest class of 66 recruits into the fire service. Twenty-one of the recruits will join the Bridgeport Fire Department, one of the largest classes to graduate into the department in recent years. The new graduates will join 26 career and volunteer fire departments across the state. They completed their

14-week residential based training program on December 12.

Mayor Bill Finch, in his welcoming remarks, welcomed the families of the recruits and talked about their induction in to the fire service. The complex job of firefighter requires “part engineer, part chemist and a whole lot of bravery,” Finch said. As a father of four, he said he takes comfort knowing the city’s first responders stand ready to protect them without hesitation. “We all rest more safely. We all sleep more soundly,” Finch said.

The mayor also pointed out the fire department’s pioneering smoke detector program, in which the Bridgeport department has installed more than 36,000 smoke detectors in city homes that helped 200 citizens escape fires. It should be a model for the state, he said.

Bridgeport Fire Chief Brian Rooney, in his remarks to the recruits, pointed out they would witness amazing acts of bravery, tragedies that would stay in their minds forever and contagious camaraderie in the firehouse. “It is a job of unusual dangers with great rewards,” Rooney said, adding, “Yet our profession calls for quick life and death decisions at any moment, running into burning buildings looking for those who were left behind.” You are the first line of defense against the whims of nature and the errors of your fellow man.”

The newest Bridgeport firefighters are: Kenneth D. Benedict, Damian T. Bullock, Derek S. Currao, Louis J. DeBiase, Matthew J. Falzarano, Brandon J. King, Edgard C. Loyola, Scott F. McAulay, Joseph J. McNellis, Richard K. Minfield Jr., Richard M. Olivier, Nicholas J. Porzelt, Jose A. Ramos, Lindsey Rivera Jr., Christopher Robinson, Anthony Santiago, Jesse M. Seto, Dayshon D. Smith, Andrew J. Smriga, Jayson H. Streit and Michael Villarnovo. Chief Rooney and Mayor Finch were among the dignitaries shaking hands with the graduates as they received their certificates. Several of the graduates also were congratulated by relatives who are in the fire service, including two whose fathers are current members of the Bridgeport Fire Department -- Joseph J. McNellis, son of Lieut. Frank McNellis and Nicholas Porzelt, son of Deputy Chief Bruce Porzelt.

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, he 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, 2006, he and another firefighter died in a three-alarm fire in the Bronx, making the supreme sacrifice “like the teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School” running toward gunfire to protect their children, said Stratford Firefighter Mike Tiberio

“They did so without hesitation and without thought,” he said.

This year’s winner was Milford fire recruit Marc Ruggiero.

In addition to Bridgeport, the class roster consists of firefighters representing departments in Branford, Brookfield, Clinton, Cromwell, East Hartford, East Haven, Fairfield, Greenwich, Hamden, Hebron, Litchfield, Manchester, Middletown, Milford, North Haven, Norwich, Oxford, Roxbury, Southington, Stratford, University of Connecticut, Wallingford, Waterford, Westport and Willimantic.

The recruits began their intensive daily training at the Connecticut Fire Academy on August 31, 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 Connecticut Fire Academy is the teaching arm of the Connecticut Commission on Fire Prevention and Control, a Division of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. Their mission is to serve as the primary source of education and training for Connecticut firefighters.

Check out photos from the graduation.

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