The Burbank Fire Department (BFD) has begun a new tradition for their annual academy graduations, and for the second year now, they have held their ceremony at the Starlight Bowl. The 2023 Departmental Celebration honors past, present, and future members during a beautiful tribute with the department’s friends and family members.
On Thursday, June 29, at 9:00 a.m., the rows of the Starlight Bowl began to fill with proud parents, wives, children, family members and friends. Each aisle had a cardboard cutout of the recruit’s face so guests knew where to sit. The class of 2023 consisted of 15 graduating recruits, which is a larger group than most years. The front of the stage was lined with yellow fire helmets with the recruit’s last names on them- those helmets will be there for years to come and see many fires and emergencies along the way.
The recruits completed a rigorous 16-week Academy that included things like a physical agility test, working with ground ladders, aerial ladder operations, woodland fire tactics, strategy and safety, high and low-angle rope rescue operations, urban search and rescue, auto extraction, forcible entry, hazardous materials, and much more. Out of 25 recruits beginning the academy, 15 made it through training and across the stage for graduation.
The Departmental Celebration began with a welcome and introduction from Deputy Fire Chief Mark Hatch and the Pledge of Allegiance by Class of 2023 Recruit Luke Gregerson. A LA County fire helicopter flew right overhead of guests at the Starlight Bowl after the commencement of the “Star Spangled Banner,” leaving everyone smiling, including the recruits.
The ceremony honored the past as well as the future in remembrance of those they have lost at the department. The department took a moment of silence with heads bowed for Firefighter John Cook (1954-1992), Battalion Chief and Fire Marshall Daryl Forbes (1966-2000), and Fire Captain George Spendley (1958-1982).
With new members of the BFD coming in, that also means that there are some heading out. The ceremony recognized the retirements of Battalion Chief Edmondo St Cyr, Fire Captain Steve Byrne, and Fire Captain John Freeborn and thanked them for their years of service to BFD and the City of Burbank, they were given their Retirement Tiles from the City and Fix Axes from Firefighters local 778.
The BFD provides emergency medical services (EMS) throughout the city with ambulances assigned to Stations 11, 13, and 15 allowing for quick response times. Five firefighters completed the Paramedic training and were appointed as paramedics during the ceremony, including Xavier Arias, Nicolas Barthe, Jason Carson, Devin Cooper, and Andres Valenzuela.
BFD also has a Hazardous Material (HazMat) management team, and after training, four firefighters were appointed as HazMat Technicians, including Anthony DeHoyos, Andrew Elffers, Michael Raymond, and Jake Speed.
On top of multiple appointments, the department has had a busy year with promotions. Captain Pete Garcia was promoted to Battalion Chief, Paramedic Omid Kianersi was promoted to Fire Captain, Engineer Paul Konzen was promoted to Fire Captain, Firefighter Andrew Whitehead was promoted to Fire Engineer, and Jim Sorowice was promoted to Fire Inspector II. Their wives and children joined them on stage during their promotion and helped to pin their new badges onto their uniforms. Even a family dog made an appearance on stage to congratulate his owner on his new position.
Firefighter Paramedic, Garret Miller, was recognized on stage as the 2023 Firefighter of the Year. Miller recently completed the Fire Chaplain Essentials course to help carry on the long-standing tradition of Fire Chaplaincy in the fire service, he was selected by all his peers.
Finally, the Class of 2023 stood for their Graduation Address and took an Oath of Office. Fire Chief Eric Garcia and Local 778 Union Representative Ralph Mundell carried on the graduation and presented the firefighters with their badges and helmet shields. Welcome to the department Class of 2023: Brennan Blazer, Brian Ghattas, Luke Gregerson, Connor Greif, Christopher Hansen, Hunter Hay, James Leon, Reuben Marks, Evan Plotnik, Matthew Pulford, Joshua Riley, Alexander Robbins, Brian Ronne, Ryan Warde, and Godfrey Young.
The ceremony concluded, and family members took to the stage for pictures with their new Burbank firefighters in front of the American flag hanging in the back. A reception was followed with snacks and drinks in the courtyard of the Starlight Bowl. Vice Mayor Nick Schultz was in attendance along with Councilmember Nikki Perez, City Manager Justin Hess, Assistant City Manager Judy Wilke, and City Clerk Kimberly Clark.
It was a successful 2023 ceremony full of promotions, appointments, new hires, and graduations that should make the Burbank Fire Department and the City of Burbank extremely proud. For a video of the ceremony, click here.