By Steve Nielsen and Shaun Towne
EXETER, R.I. (WPRI) — Fourteen recruits four Rhode Island communities made history Friday as the first graduating class of the state’s Fire Training Academy.
After nine weeks of training, the firefighters will now go to work for their respective departments.
“Our friendships will last long,” said class leader Scott Kulacz. “I’m just proud of you guys.”
More than 300 family members, friends, and local leaders were on hand to celebrate the graduation that was 15 years in the making.
“These are very special young people and we all should be grateful for their service and the service of their families,” said U.S. Sen. Jack Reed.
“We are proud of you,” said U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. “We admire you. We support you.”
Congressmen David Cicilline and Jim Langevin were also in attendance, along with state Fire Marshal Jack Chartier and Rhode Island State Police Superintendent Ann Assumpico.
In addition to the graduation, the ceremony also included a ribbon-cutting for the academy. Instead of a ribbon, however, retired Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Michael DiMascolo instead ordered firefighters to “charge the line” – or fill a fire hose with water – which was then sprayed into the air.
The academy was approved by voters back in 2002, but there were numerous starts and stops in the construction process over the years.
Before it opened earlier this year, all of the state’s 6,000 firefighters received training from their departments. Now, cities and towns can send their recruits to the academy which is not only more cost-effective, but it also ensures they’re all receiving the same training.
The academy’s second class will get underway in June.