Toledo (OH) Fire Celebrates Graduates From Class 294

David Patch

The Blade, Toledo, Ohio


Oct. 30—Five years after his own swearing-in as a Toledo firefighter, Delano Lockett watched his brother Demecus Beach get his Toledo Fire & Rescue Department badge Friday night.

And like many of Mr. Beach’s classmates in Fire Class 294, the two brothers entered the fire service from other careers.

“I wanted to constantly give back to the community, to be able to help out,” Mr. Beach, a 33-year-old former special-education teacher in the Toledo Public Schools, said following the 80-minute graduation ceremony in the Bowsher High School auditorium during which 46 TFRD recruits became probationary firefighters.

Kierra Mullins, who was chosen by both her classmates and her instructors for the fire department’s two class awards — the Robert L. Schwanzl and John H. Brancheau awards, respectively — cited the group’s diverse backgrounds in her address during the ceremony.

“Very few of us fit the normal mold” for new firefighters, Ms. Mullins said. Along with several teachers, Class 294 included an artist, a lawn-care professional, and a postal worker among its members — as well as a barber who was the class comedian and “secretly has an affinity for emergency medicine.

“Every single one of us have struggled at some point during this academy” but were able to rely on each other to pull through, Ms. Mullins said, noting that many “conquered our fears” along the way.

“We have learned entirely too much about each other and have become family,” Ms. Mullins quipped.

Amanda Davis, 36, said she left a career as an auditor for a private accounting firm after meeting a firefighter at her gym who “just kind of sold me on a dream” and put her in touch with TFRD recruiters who encouraged her during several diversity meetings.

“I thought, ‘I need to be part of something great,’ and it felt right,” she said.

Ms. Davis’ vocal rooting section brought big smiles to her face onstage while she simultaneously shook her head.

“It felt like every moment of silence, my family took advantage of it and shouted out my name,” she said.

Joe Walter, a retired Toledo assistant fire chief, in a keynote address urged the entire class to reflect on those friends, family, teachers, coaches, and classmates who had supported them to this point and follow that example going forward.

“Firefighting can be a dangerous profession,” Mr. Walter said before advising the new class to honor their forebears’ sacrifices “by doing all you can to prevent additional names” from being added to the firefighters’ memorial.

“小心,”同意丹德斯蒙德,the president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 92, in welcoming the new class to the union while describing the recruiting class as “overdue.”

The new firefighters will provide much-needed relief for TFRD’s current ranks, Mr. Desmond said, and with another academy class on the near horizon, they’ll be on the seniority roster’s bottom for only about a year.

Fire Chief Brian Byrd told the class it had probably experienced, in training, “more live burns that many firefighters will experience in their entire career.” On the job, he said, they will encounter “the best in people and the worst in people,” and their effort and empathy will be critical.

“Continuous improvement is an absolute necessity,” the chief told the class, because “the fire service is very dynamic and ever-changing.”

Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, meanwhile, said the new firefighters often will encounter people “in their darkest days.”

“You live in a very weary world, and you will provide that spark of light for that weary world,” the mayor said, alluding to a passage from William Shakespeare.

While professing a healthy respect for his second career’s hazards, Mr. Lockett said he had no qualms about urging Mr. Beach to join him in the fire service.

“I feel like our training was very good,” he said. “Any situation I’ve been in, I felt like I was prepared for.”

Mr. Beach said Mr. Lockett, 38, “really convinced me to get in it,” inspiring him to keep trying even after his first application was denied.

“I’m not worried about the job, because I was trained by the best instructors,” Mr. Beach said.

Mr. Lockett had driven garbage trucks for 11 years before applying to become a firefighter “in part for better hours” — he was always getting home late from work, and while the fire service entails 24-hour shifts, he could do things with his sons on his days off. He also had a cousin, Martin Schley, in the fire department, and they now work together at Station 4 on Hill Avenue in southwest Toledo.

Mr. Beach said that while he has been initially assigned to Station 16 on Dorr Street, he hopes someday to make Station 4 an even bigger family affair — especially because he’d be able to walk to work. But he also plans to keep coaching football at Scott High School.

And Theresa Jelks, a treatment foster mother for Lucas County Children Services who is Mr. Lockett’s and Mr. Beach’s mother, said she’s proud her sons have become firefighters.

“I take care of people, and I’m glad they’re doing the same now,” she said.



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