The Santa Barbara City Fire Department welcomed 10 new firefighters Friday, who were sworn in as the department’s 42nd Academy class.
The ceremony culminated a multi-year recruiting and testing effort. The city received more than 800 applications, and each of the graduates passed a rigorous testing process that included an application and resume panel, three oral interviews, job-specific fitness testing, a medical and psychological exam and a thorough background assessment. The new firefighters will fill positions created by retirements, said James Heidlebaugh, fire spokesman.
The new graduates are: Denver Chavez, Eric Cole, Jarrett Costa, Garrett Cuffel, Zachary La Cavera, Peter Navarra, Kyle Ochoa, Austin Fritzler, Spencer Smith and Shane Zeile.
Originally scheduled for 12 weeks, the ceremony capped off a 10-week academy that included classroom instruction, conditioning training and manipulative skills. Adjustments were made to the academy to minimize exposures while completing the training curriculum, Mr. Heidlebaugh said.
The academy prepared the recruits to safely respond to medical emergencies, auto accidents and extrications, water rescue, hazardous material operations, rope rescue, confined space rescue, floods, aircraft rescue and firefighting, structure firefighting, and wildland firefighting operations.
“The ceremony is an acknowledgment that the recruits completed the mandated training, while overcoming new challenges from COVID-19,” Mr. Heidlebaugh said.
The move to accelerate the academy timeline came as the department prepared for possible surges in COVID-19 patients, as well as a proactive goal to augment department staffing should there be significant impacts to the community and firefighters affected by the virus, he added.
“The Santa Barbara City Fire Department is taking every step necessary to ensure we fulfill our mission of protecting life and property in Santa Barbara during the COVID Pandemic. I am proud to welcome the 10 recruits who joined our ranks (Friday),” Fire Chief Eric Nickel said in a statement. “These recruits demonstrated their flexibility and resolve under extraordinary circumstances, and I am excited to see them serve our community with respect, compassion, and integrity.”
Chief Nickel presided over the outdoor ceremony that complied with County Public Health orders. The recruits received their badges and recited the oath of duty. The ceremony was attended by fire command staff, academy instructors and a small number of family members. The event was also live streamed on the department’s Facebook page for friends and family to view from their homes.
The new firefighters began working on Saturday. Their one-year probationary period will include field and classroom training, written and manipulative exams, and will culminate in a final test.