FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2008
MAYOR BLOOMBERG AND FIRE COMMISSIONER SCOPPETTA PRESIDE OVER GRADUATION CEREMONY FOR 286 PROBATIONARY FIREFIGHTERS
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta today presided over a graduation ceremony for 286 Probationary Firefighters. The new firefighters, known as "probies," graduated after completing a rigorous training program at the Department's Fire Academy located on Randall's Island. Today's class is also the most diverse in the department's history; 35 percent of the graduates are minorities. Among today's graduates, 72 were also members of the U.S. military - one of the highest number of veterans ever in a graduating class. Of that number, 60 served overseas, including 40 who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Several hundred family members, friends and fellow firefighters joined the Mayor and Commissioner to congratulate the second class of 2008 at the ceremony held at the U.S.S. Intrepid.
"Your class is the most diverse class in Fire Department history and you hail from all parts of the City," said Mayor Bloomberg. "You are all firefighters who proudly reflect the city you serve. You have worked hard and been through some difficult times, including the tragic loss of Academy classmate Firefighter Jamel Sears. Today, with Jamel's memory in mind, you are joining a proud tradition by stepping into the front ranks of the world's best - and Bravest - Fire Department."
"Today, you are poised to begin an exciting new chapter in your lives. You are joining an agency that is known the world over and the most beloved in the city," said Commissioner Scoppetta. "Just last week a survey of 135,000 New Yorkers found that the FDNY was the highest rated city service, in neighborhoods across the five boroughs. You are becoming members of a group that other firefighters all across the nation look up to. You are now New York's Bravest."
All four women who entered the class were among the graduates today. Among them is Probationary Firefighter Joy Flores, a veteran of the U.S. Army and the first female squad leader in the history of the Academy. Each class is broken down into squads of approximately 25 members. A squad leader is selected to maintain discipline within the group, make sure they report to classes and other events on time and inspire squad members.
Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Scoppetta also took time at today's ceremony to remember the tragic loss of Probationary Firefighter Jamel Sears, the 33-year-old firefighter who collapsed at the FDNY Training Academy on November 10th. An empty chair was set aside in honor of Sears, whose wife, New York City Police Officer Sherita Sears, attended with other family members.
"We all wish that Jamel was sitting in that seat today," Commissioner Scoppetta said. "And I know that the members of Engine 218 in Brooklyn, where Jamel worked just a short while ago and where he will be assigned posthumously, wish that they could have had much more time with him."
The Mayor congratulated Probationary Firefighter Anthony Reynolds for being today's class valedictorian. Probationary Firefighter Jacob Worstell was the class salutatorian. The Physical Fitness Award was given to Probationary Firefighter Richard Delgado. Three members of today's class are also children of fallen firefighters. Probationary Firefighter Andrew Esposito's father, Lieutenant Mike Esposito of Squad 1, and Probationary Firefighter Ronnie Gies' father of the same name - a Firefighter with Squad 288 - died in the line of duty on Sept. 11, 2001. Probationary Firefighter Carl LaPiedra's father, Captain Scott LaPiedra of Ladder Company 176, died July 4, 1998 from injuries he suffered while battling a blaze on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn on June 5, 1998.
This class of firefighters received 23 weeks of extensive training at the Department's Fire Academy located on Randall's Island, learning a variety of firefighting techniques, including hazardous materials training. Training hours were also devoted to engine and ladder operations, fire prevention, building construction and building inspection. The Probationary Firefighters now will be assigned to firehouses throughout the City, where they will gain field experience under the guidance of senior firefighters and officers.
During their time at the Academy, members of this class volunteered their time for a variety of causes. That work included constructing special bikes that wounded war veterans in the Achilles Club rode during the New York City Marathon. Members also marched in the city's Veteran's Day Parade directly behind President George W. Bush.
Stu Loeser / Jason Post (212) 788-2958
Francis X. Gribbon (FDNY)