The 2021 Departmental Celebrations ceremony for the Burbank Fire Department was held at the Starlight Bowl on Thursday, May 27.
Fire department retirees, recruits, and promotions were all recognized at the ceremony, which included speeches from BFD Battalion Chief Fire Marshal Mark Hatch, Battalion Chief Training and Safety Tray White, and Fire Chief Eric Garcia. Also in attendance were Burbank’s City Manager Justin Hess, Council Member Nick Shultz, and Vice Mayor and former BFD Captain, Jess Talamantes.
“This is an exciting day for the Burbank Fire Department,” Garcia said. “For the last 18 months, staffing’s been a real issue so we’re welcoming these 18 members, [and] 25 total with the classes of 2020 as well…We’re really looking forward to moving ourselves in that positive direction. So it’s been a great day.”
Following delays in a 2020 graduation celebration due to COVID-19 restrictions, friends, family, and BFD staff gathered at the Starlight Bowl to honor the 25 new recruits and 8 department promotion recipients, 4 were separately given the title of Captain, 4 of whom were promoted to Engineer.
Two graduating classes from the 2020 Recruitment Academy, along with one class from 2021, gathered on stage to receive their Burbank Fire Department badges and take their official oath of office as they entered their new role as probationary firefighters. This commencement ceremony marks the end of a rigorous 16-week training program which includes hiking, throwing ladders, pulling hoses, and other physical demands of fire service. The 25 graduates emerged as a select final group from a total pool of over 3,000 applicants.
“The physical demands are tremendous,” Hatch said of the BFD training program. “We start the academy going through a physical agility process…Those physical demands will translate into [recruits’] careers as [they] will be the same in…any kind of scenario we’re going to run into.”
Captains Steve Owen, Ted Hemphill, and Brad Royal were honored as retirees, and together hold a combined 91 years of contributions to the department. Dr. Steve Rottman, Medical Director of Emergency Medical Services, was independently acknowledged for his 40 years of service to BFD.
Furthermore, Jason Kay, Fire Captain of Ventura City Fire Department, wore a traditional kilt while playing “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes for an “In Memoriam” segment of the event. Engineer Al “Almo” Moore, Captain Guy “Guy Bird” Thompson, Fire Chief Curtis Reynolds, Engineer Art Popkin, and Nurse Specialist Susan Hayward were acknowledged during this moment.
“Each of these fire family members, in their own way, left a lasting memory for all of us to cherish on our journey,” Hatch said. “May they all rest in peace.”
Throughout the pandemic, the BFD has continued to adhere to all City of Burbank and L.A. County COVID guidelines while maintaining their service to the City, including social distancing and wearing masks when in public. While in fire stations, the department is no longer required to wear masks around their work cohorts. This is an early step towards the upcoming declines in protocols expected on June 15, when all of L.A. County is anticipated to fully reopen public services.
“We’re looking forward to June 15, when the entire city opens up, which will alleviate a lot of [protocols] that we’re doing,” White said. “When we’re outside in the public we’re wearing masks, we’re adhering to the six feet [guideline], to social distancing, and making sure that we’re adhering to not only… County protocols, but what the City of Burbank has also put in place for us.”
Bradley Petersen was among the 25 graduates honored at the Departmental Celebrations. Petersen comes from a family of firefighters and started his career path as a personal trainer, which evolved into an alternative opportunity to help others through fire service. As one of 18 recruits from the class of 2021, Petersen’s official initiation into the BFD was met with great satisfaction as he reached his goal of serving the City of Burbank as a firefighter.
“I just wanted more for my life,” Petersen said of joining the BFD. “I just wanted to help people on a bigger scale…It’s definitely the best decision I’ve made for myself and my family, and I look forward to a career in the fire service.”
Here is a video of the ceremony!