Winchester Fire Department welcomes new class of graduates

Published 10:12 am Friday, December 15, 2023

When people think of graduation, May and June often come to mind.

Yet Friday, Dec. 8th, was an exception for one unique group.

At Winchester Fire Department-Emergency Medical Services Station 1, located at 44 North Maple Street, graduation class 2301 was celebrated as they completed training and prepared to join the Winchester Fire Department.

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“This is a special occasion. We are honored that you are here to take part in this celebration,” said Winchester Fire Department Chief Chris Whitely. “Today’s Winchester Fire Department is made up of the finest firemen with the most extensive capabilities our department has ever seen.”

This year’s graduates are Josh Berry, Logan Crigler, Manual Gamez, Zachary Groves and Noah Whaley.

Among those present to witness the graduating ceremony, which took place inside Station 1 with chairs set up for guests, were Winchester Mayor JoEllen Reed and City Manager Mike Flynn.

Early on, the ceremony included not only a welcome by Chief Whiteley and invocation by Flynn, but Major Matthew Blose of the Winchester Fire Department led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Blose played a vital role in developing the recruits, as he helped lead them through training.

“It’s a fourteen-week academy, fifty-six hours a week,” Blose said. “We take a guy who has done no firefighting, and we teach them basic customs and courtesies, organization, fire behavior, building construction…ventilation, basic search, fire attack, vehicle extrication, [and] hazmat. It’s a pretty packed set of weeks.”

During the ceremony, a video highlight package displaying the training of the recruits and their progress was played.

Perhaps appropriately, Johnny Cash’s song “Ring of Fire” played alongside the video.

Shortly after, Whitely spoke again, reading the Code of Conduct for officers of the Winchester Fire Department.

“As a member of the Winchester Fire Department, your fundamental duty is to protect or save lives and safeguard property in the service of your community,” Whitely read. “You recognize the badge of firefighter as a symbol of public faith and accept it as a public trust. You hereby dedicate yourself to the citizens and visitors of the city of Winchester and Clark County to ensure their safety in the discharge of your duties.”

The Code of Conduct also included recognizing the profession of firefighting as a symbol of public faith and trust, never using the position for personal gain, and setting a positive example in all actions and deeds.

Raising their right hand and repeating a statement delivered by Whiteley, all recruits agreed also to support the United States Constitution, the Kentucky Constitution and honor, respect, obey, and enforce ordinances of Winchester and Clark County as called to do so.

Yet that wasn’t all.

Family members participated in the badge-pinning ceremony portion of the event.

The action is a tradition at graduation ceremonies for new Winchester Fire Department members.

“Your firefighter has accomplished a great feat and it was made possible by your commitment,” Whiteley said.

While Berry and Gamez were pinned by their father and Groves and Whaley by their mothers, Crigler’s wife placed the pin on her husband.

The newest firefighters were also given their certificates and platoon assignments, where they’ll serve under the command of Battalion Chiefs Scott Bell, August Fisher or Jason Keller.

Additionally, Fisher presented the Irons Award.

“This is for the person who puts out not just effort, [but] they lead, they show up on time, [and] they go the extra step”, he said.

The award was presented to Gamez.

Later, Crigler – a Burlington, Ky. native – spoke of the merits of becoming a firefighter for the Winchester Fire Department.

“I wanted something different. I knew they had a challenging academy. It just really interested me,” Crigler said. “I’m just happy for [myself[ and all the other guys ready to get on shift. We learned teamwork, brotherhood, [and] leadership.”

Whiteley, addressing the audience as the ceremony neared an end, provided some closing words.

“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share in the lives of these young men,” he said.